By Graeme Benjamin
The Dalhousie men’s basketball team failed to win an AUS championship, or even reach the semifinals for the second year in a row.
The fifth-seeded St. Francis Xavier X-Men defeated the fourth-seeded Dalhousie Tigers 78-70 in the quarter-final at the Halifax Metro Centre March 1. Jeremy Dunn and Tyrell Vernon led the charge for St. FX with 17 points each, while Dal’s Hassan Abdullahi’s 20 points made him the game’s highest scorer.
Dal entered the fourth quarter down 14 points. Led by Abdullahi and Kashrell Lawerence, the Tigers went on a 15-2 run, placing them within one with less than five minutes to play. Dunn then made two clutch buckets beyond the arc, putting the X-Men up seven and sealing the Tigers’ fate.
Dal head coach John Campbell had mixed emotions at the end of the game, but overall was pleased with his team’s performance.
“We dug ourselves into a pretty big hole but I’m proud of the guys for coming back in the fourth quarter,” he said, “But you can’t expect to win against good teams when you’re that inconsistent.”
John Campbell Post-Game Comments
John Campbell Interview
Steve Konchalski, the 38-year veteran coach of St. FX, complimented the Tigers on their late game push. He said the second half has always been difficult for his squad because his team lacks depth.
“We’ve led all good teams in the league by double digits in the second half but because our team doesn’t have a deep bench, the other teams wear us down,” said Konchalski.
With the win, the X-Men advanced to the semifinals against the first-ranked Cape Breton Capers. CBU won the game 80-70.
The Tigers had a late season surge that saw them win five of their last six regular season games. Foreshadowing the championship game, they lost only to St. FX. In their last regular season match, they beat the Acadia Axemen 78-70. The Axemen, at the time, were ranked fourth in Canada.
The Dalhousie squad fell victim to the injury bug in the later part of the season. Devon Stedman had an ongoing knee injury and point guard Derek Norris broke his hand in January. Campbell said these obstaces were difficult to deal with entering the tournament.
“Stedman has a 50-year-old knee on a 20-year-old body,” says Campbell. “Derek’s injury caused us a lot of challenges with depth but I think Matt Morrison did an excellent job in his place.”
Konchalski believes it was the inexperience of the Tigers, and not their coaching, which led to their downfall.
Steve Konchalski Post-Game Comments
Steve Konchalski Interview
“At the beginning of the year I don’t think too many people assured them of a playoff spot necessarily,” he says. “But Campbell made them one of the best offensive rebounding teams in the league.”
The Saint Mary’s Huskies provided the upset of the tournament, defeating the third-seeded UPEI Panthers 77-76. The match came down to the final seconds and after a controversial travelling call on UPEI, the Huskies came out with the win.
Cape Breton was on the winning end of the 83-75 final score. James Dorsey was named Player of the Game, scoring 30 points and going 16-16 on the foul line.
James Dorsey After Winning Championship
Dorsey Championship Comments
As the final buzzer sounded, Capers head coach Matt Skinn dropped to his knees and fist-pumped the air in celebration.
“I’m an alumni of the program so to not do it as a player and to be able to bring it home as a coach is really special,” says Skinn.
The Capers and the Axemen will both compete in the CIS championships in Ottawa beginning March 8 at Carleton University. Cape Breton enters the tournament ranked second and takes on Lakehead University in their quarterfinal match. The Axemen are seeded fifth and will face UBC in their opening game.