By Kirk Jessome
After claiming their fourth AUS conference championship title in the last five years, the Tigers men’s basketball team is now set to continue their momentum on the national stage, which will be in front of their home crowd.
After an incredible stretch of games in the second half of the regular season, the Tigers stormed into the AUS playoffs riding the wave of an eight-game winning streak, good enough for the #3 seed in the conference.
As the #3 seed, the Tigers needed to take the long way in order to make it to the AUS Final, starting with a quarter-final matchup against the Memorial Sea-Hawks.
The Tigers were able to push the ball in transition against the Sea-Hawks, with Keevan Veinot putting on an impressive display of passing to find his teammates on the fast break. A key aspect of the game is how many different scorers stepped up for the Tigers, with their bench outscoring Memorial’s 36-9 to help push them to a comfortable 83-59 win.
In their semi final matchup, the Tigers took on a strong UNB team that was raining threes early in the game. The Tigers were down by as much as 16 in the opening frame, but a gritty, defensive second quarter held the Reds to just nine points and gave the Tigers their first lead at the half. With every other stat in the game looking nearly identical, the determining factor in the win for the Tigers was their aggressiveness in the paint, earning 45 trips to the line where they shot at a 71% rate.
The matchup against the #1 ranked Saint Mary’s was a tough, defensive battle, with neither team managing more than 11 points per quarter in the first half. The Tigers were able to control the paint on the defensive end, however, with Sascha Kappos stepping up for six blocks in the game.
With Jordan Brathwaite distributing the ball for seven assists, more than the entire Huskies roster, the Tigers finally got their outside shot going in the tournament, with Alex Carson nailing three from deep in the final five minutes of the game to secure the 65-55 victory and the championship banner.
After a turnaround of just one week to get ready for the U SPORTS Final 8, the Tigers enter the tournament as the #5 seed and take on the high-powered offence of the UBC Thunderbirds.
In the battle between the second best offense in the country of the Thunderbirds, and the sixth best defense from the Tigers, it is sure to be an exciting matchup on both ends of the floor. The Tigers will need to keep the momentum going and hold their recent scoring touch in order to keep the winning streak alive.
The tournament kicks off on Friday at the Scotiabank Centre, with the Tigers tipping off at 8pm.