Halifax, NS- While they may have been eliminated from championship contention, there were still games to play for the four teams in the consolation semi-finals of the U SPORTS men’s basketball Final 8.
The Winnipeg Wesmen and UQAM Citadins played a see-saw game that went into double overtime before UQAM prevailed 90-85. The Queen’s Gaels took the lead early against the UPEI Panthers and didn’t give that up, winning 93-68.
Citadins Bounce Back to Win First Nationals Game
For the second game in a row, the UQAM Citadins found themselves in a close contest all the way until the end.
Just under 24 hours earlier, guard Bahaide Haidara missed a potential game-winning shot against the Carleton Ravens. Against Winnipeg, Haidara finished with a game-high 31 points to with five rebounds and five assists.
He pointed to that being the strength of the team – how any player can get 30 points during a game. In the consolation semi-finals, that happened to be Haidara.
This time, the switch was flipped. After leading most the Carleton game, the Citadins were trailing most of the Winnipeg game. However, they outscored their opponents 20-9 in the fourth quarter to force overtime. In the second overtime, they outscored the Wesmen 11-6.
They fought through the fatigue of playing 50 minutes on short rest. “You don’t want to lose,” Haidara said. “You don’t want to lose so bad that the exhaustion doesn’t even come to your mind.”
They also made history – winning their first-ever game at nationals in their third-ever appearance.
It’s come full circle for them. The Citadins lost 82-75 to the Wesmen back in October. Almost five months later, they’re playing in a consolation finals.
UQAM head coach Mario Joseph said there were a lot of egos in the gym at the beginning of the year but they’ve figured it out since then. “We just started playing better and better as the year went along,” he added.
The Citadins will have a chance to finish their year on a high note when the face the Queen’s Gaels in the consolation semi-finals.
Queen’s regroup to beat UPEI
While UQAM was coming off a tough loss in the quarterfinals, so was Queen’s. The Gaels fell behind early to St. Fx before mounting a late comeback that fell short. In their consolation semi-finals against UPEI, they were the ones off to the fast start.
Queen’s outscored UPEI 21-14 in the first quarter and 27-21 in the second. While the Panthers cut into the deficit in the third quarter, the Gaels continued to increase their lead – winning 93-68.
“I’m pleased after our guys responded after what is an emotional, you know a difficult moment last night for our team,” Queen’s head coach Steph Barrie said. “For our team to have aspirations of winning a national championship and have those come crashing down.”
His team was and he said they regrouped and did a good job composing themselves. “At the same time, there’s a whole bunch of teams across the country that are not getting to play this weekend,” he added.
The Gaels had good shooting in the game – 48 per cent from the field and 40.6 per cent – but also perspective and composure. It’s a game that “nobody wants to be playing in, to some capacity”, according to Barrie.
For UPEI, it marks the end of a season with them in the national tournament for the first time since 2003. Panthers head coach Darrell Glenn talked about how proud he was that they battled through injuries and adversity. Perseverance, he called it.
“We’ve come into the tournament undersized but these guys have competed all season long and I’m really really proud of them,” Glenn noted. The Panthers were out-rebounded 50-31 by the Gaels.
Glenn also mentioned how he hopes this is the beginning for them but there’s still a lot of work to do. The next step: winning a game at nationals – or more than one game.
“If we can continue to recruit the type of talent that we need to be successful here and we can continue to grow as a program, then I think we can start talking about that,” he added. “We’re still climbing the ladder and we’re proud of what we’re at.”
Featured Image: Trevor MacMillan/U SPORTS/Dalhousie Athletics