Edmonton, AB – It’s the game with easily the lowest stakes in the tournament, yet the consolation semifinal is one of the most challenging games for a team. Barely 24 hours following the heartbreak of losing their quarterfinal matchup, teams are asked to go back on the court and essentially asked to play for pride. Pride and for a shot at the fifth-place game.
In their 90-77 consolation semifinal victory, the #4 Dalhousie Tigers showed they still had something to prove in Edmonton, while the #1 Brock Badgers showed they were ready to head back to St. Catherines.
The Badgers entered the consolation side of the bracket following their stunning 77-73 upset loss against the #8 Saskatchewan Huskies. They lost the opportunity to play for a shot at their first national title since 2008, but the 2022 Wilson Cup champions had something to prove in the consolation semifinal. That they were worthy of the number one seed, they earned following their 14-1 season and Ontario championship.
For #4 Dalhousie, they fell 90-80 in the quarterfinal to #5 Queen’s. After a fourth-place finish in 2019 and a National Silver Medal in 2020, the Tigers were hungry to end the final season of Keevan Veinot and Alex Carson with a gold medal. It wasn’t to be, but with potentially one game left in the legendary careers of the Dalhousie seniors, the consolation semifinal would provide one last chance to celebrate a win together.
Just after 1:00 pm at a Saville Centre about one-quarter full, the Badgers and Tigers tipped off, and from early on, it looked like the heartbreak of the loss to Saskatchewan had Brock ready to head home. The first five minutes passed relatively close, but a pair of Keevan Veinot threes sparked a 15-2 run for the Tigers
It was another strong performance for the 2020 AUS MVP, who had 21 points in the loss to Queen’s on Friday. He picked up 19 points, including going 5/11 from three-point range.
A late Emmanuel Owootoah three cut the Tigers’ lead to 20-13, where it stayed at the end of the first. After a stunning upset in the quarterfinal, it was another test of the mettle of the young Brock Badgers program
“There’s no way to go out there and know what it’s like until you actually have to be there in the moment, and I think these guys are gonna take the experience, and we’re going to build something out of it.” Brock head coach Willy Manigat said.
As the second quarter kicked off, Brock started to cut things closer. Kwadwo Otchere got a couple baskets early, and Tajinder Lall layed it in to cut the game to 23-19 with 7 minutes to go. Once again, though, after the clock hit 5:00, the Tigers started to take over, primarily thanks to their lights out shooting from deep.
In one sequence, Veinot finished off a fast-break and followed it up with his fourth three to push the Dalhousie lead to 35-22.
The next three possessions for Dalhousie saw back-to-back-to-back threes from Marley Blommers, and suddenly it was a 44-27 game. By the time halftime hit was 50-33 for the Tigers, but with the fascinating number, they were 52% from the three-point range 11/21 but only 45% from the field overall 17/37.
“If we were to play like we did yesterday, I think it would have been a little different story,” Dalhousie head coach Rick Plato said. “We were more focused and ready to compete today.”
In the third quarter, Godsman Kwakwah seemingly decided he would try and claw Brock back into the game. The third-year guard picked up eight of his 18 points in the quarter as the Badgers tried to climb back, but by the end of the quarter, Brock still found themselves down 72-58
As the fourth quarter ticked toward the end, Alex Carson took over for the Tigers. He picked up three of his game-high 29 with a layup plus the foul to put the Tigers up 77-61 with seven minutes to go. He followed it up with a fadeaway jumper at the buzzer in the corner to the Tigers up by 15, 81-66, with five minutes to play.
“The kid’s one of the best three-point shooters in the country when he gets rolling, and Keevan as well, they’re very difficult to beat,” Plato said
Brock continually chipped away at the lead as a Jordan Tcheunte layup with 2:07 left to cut the game to single digits at 85-76. But after a free throw, a no-look pass from Veinot found Burrows in the paint, and he put the lead back up to 88-76 with 46.5 seconds left, sealing the game for the Tigers.
It was a disappointing game for Brock’s Tajinder Lall, one of the best scorers in Ontario in the 2021-2022 regular season, to just 13 points on 5-14 shooting.
When the senior checked out for what would be the final time in his U SPORTS career with 30 seconds left in the fourth quarter, he sat dejected on the Brock bench, a towel over his head. The impact he has had on the Brock program will live on, though.
“TJ’s come and help me set a culture of accountability, of expectations, of toughness, of resilience,” Manigat said. “It’s been amazing to watch his growth into the person he is today.”
The Tigers move on to the fifth-place game on Sunday afternoon where they play the winner of the Victoria Vikes and the McGill Redbirds matchup. The Tigers get one more chance to send off their seniors and Coach Plato is grateful for it.
“They didn’t want the season to end today and I’m proud of them.”