Edmonton, AB – A couple of weeks ago, the Queen’s Gaels shocked the U SPORTS basketball world with an 86-80 win that sent the Carleton Ravens crashing out of the Wilson Cup playoffs. In their 90-80 quarterfinal victory over the #4 Dalhousie Tigers on Friday afternoon, Queen’s proved they aren’t entirely done being the surprise of U SPORTS basketball.
The #5 Gaels came into their quarterfinal matchup on perhaps the most prominent high possible. They may have lost the Wilson Cup 95-75 to the Brock Badgers, but their upset win over Carleton gave the program its first trip to nationals and put them on the U SPORTS national stage.
“Our team feels a little slighted coming in. We feel we deserve to be here when a lot of the other guys don’t think that, so we’re out here to prove a point, play together, play hard.” Gaels guard Quinton Gray said.
For the #4 Dalhousie Tigers, the U SPORTS Final 8 has not been kind to them. In 2019, they fell to the Ryerson Rams in the bronze medal match. They followed it in 2020 with a trip to the National Final, where they watched the Carleton Ravens celebrate another national title in front of their home fans in Ottawa. After a third consecutive AUS championship, the Tigers
The afternoon started back and forth for both sides. Alex Carson and Keevan Veinot shared the scoring lead after one quarter with Cole Syllas with eight points each as the Gaels held a 22-20 lead after one quarter. It was more of the same into the second, with Alex Carson leading the Tigers with 15 points, but the score was 44-44 at the break. The Tigers shot nearly 60% from the field but had almost a dozen fewer shots than the Gaels.
As the afternoon went on, though, the usually reliable Cole Syllas saw his offence dry up for the Gaels. He picked up 39 points in the Gaels’ upset win, but between the second and third quarter, he was only able to drop four points on the Tigers, finishing with 18 for the game.
That meant Queen’s turned to Quinton Gray, as the fifth-year guard went 4-10 from three to finish with 19 points overall.
Back and forth was the night’s story; Shamar Burrows got a fast break to put the Tigers up 64-62, only to have Henry Van Herk answer with a bucket for Queen’s seconds later as the Gaels ultimately entered the 4th quarter up 68-66.
With Syllas not shooting to his usual level, five Gaels ended up with 10+ points on the afternoon for the Gaels.
“We don’t try to put too much on any one guy. We’re all out here to do our job, and sometimes the ball finds us in good spots like it did some guys today,” Gray said.
Into the fourth quarter, it looked like the Tigers had an opportunity to pull away when Veinot hit a three to give them a 76-74 lead with six minutes to go but a 9-2 run punctuated by a Connor Keefe dunk with just over four minutes to play put Queen’s up 83-78 and they never looked back.
Down 8 with 50 seconds left, a Dalhousie steal from Veinot could have put Shamar Burrows on the fast break, but Veinot threw it right into the hand of the Gaels defender, and with that,, the Dalhousie season was over.
The first semifinal is now set with the Gaels taking on the #8 Saskatchewan Huskies, who had a shocking 77-73 win over the #1 Brock Badgers. That win denied the chance at a Wilson Cup rematch but regardless of that, Gaels coach Steph Barrie is just happy to be still playing.
“We’re just really grateful to still be playing right now. Most of the teams in the country are done. We get to still play tomorrow, so we’re pretty happy about that.”
The Gaels entered this tournament unhappy with their underdog status, but they are feeling all kinds of confidence after this one. “We know that if we keep fighting, we’re gonna be the last one’s standing, and we have real confidence in that,” Gray said.
They might just be right.
Cover Photo: Don Voaklander