By Kirk Jessome
The 2017-18 men’s basketball team came into the season looking to make history as the first team to win four consecutive AUS titles since 1960. The goal fell short for the Tigers, but the young team looks very threatening for the future.
The group was led by fifth-year senior Sven Stammberger who averaged a team-high 18.4 points and 8.2 rebounds per game, while shooting 52% from the field and 86% from the line. Also having a fantastic season was Alex Carson, who was historic from deep, knocking down 67 threes, which put him second all-time in an AUS single season.
While those two shooters were the most consistent scorers throughout the year, the Tigers found themselves getting key contributions from different sources, with any player on the floor able to step up on any given night. Head coach Rick Plato says this is all in the flow of the offence.
“A good offence should get your best guys the best looks they can get, but the key for us was balancing it,” says Plato. “Everyone needs to be able to step up when they are called upon, even though more than half the team were either true freshmen or had played limited minutes in their first seasons.”
The Tigers finished with a fantastic 16-4 record, including an unbeaten 8-0 record in all important four-point games. Those four-point games made the difference in the standings as the Tigers finished first in the conference.
They put together long stretches of wins in the regular season, with the longest streak reaching seven-straight games coming out of the Christmas break. The only teams able to break up those stretches were Acadia and StFX.
With one of the best records in the country, the Tigers remained in the U SPORTS Top 10 throughout the entire season, ranked as high as fifth.
Receiving a bye for the first round in the AUS championship, the Tigers faced off against StFX in the semifinal and the game did not go as planned. After taking a lead into halftime, a tough third quarter got the Tigers into a hole they couldn’t get out of, and they were outscored 32-15.
“Foul trouble killed us in that game,” says Plato. “We weren’t disciplined or patient enough, and it took some important guys out of the game. It’s unfortunate because other than that our defence was great and we shut down most of their key scorers.”
Plato says that his group needs to focus on the little things that are worked on every day in practice both physically and mentally, and those will add to their success next season. The team has a very young roster with a lot of talent that will get a chance to stand out next year with five players graduating.
“With guys like Carson, Jordan Aquino-Serjue, Xavier Ochu and Keevan Veinot coming back and being so young, I think we have one of the best backcourts in the country, and they’ll be a force to reckon with for years to come.”