Huskies play Niagara tonight for shot at OCAA gold
After a week without game action, George Brown’s men’s basketball team was thrown right back into the fire on the province’s biggest stage.
Having earned a bye after their first place finish in the East Division, the Huskies (19-1) opened day one of the Ontario Colleges Athletic Association (OCAA) championship yesterday against the West’s fourth-seeded Fanshawe Falcons (9-7). The result was a 76-74 victory for George Brown, following an incredible four quarter battle settled only in the game’s final seconds.
From tip-off to the final buzzer, no lead felt safe. Once an early nine point George Brown advantage evaporated, the tilt saw 12 lead changes and 11 ties. A frenetic, physical first quarter set the tone for the entire match, with Huskies swingman Matthew Bukovec accumulating three personal fouls heading into the second quarter.
“I felt like they played hungry, because we’re the first place team in the East,” said Huskies guard Kevon Mascoe. “They wanted to come out hard against us and end our winning streak.”
While George Brown may have come into the game as favourites on paper, the Falcons weren’t intimidated. The out-of-towners refused to go away, pushing back against every George Brown lead. Come the second half, the East’s top team found themselves on the wrong side of several small Fanshawe leads.
“They were excellent,” Fanshawe head coach Tony Marcotullio said of his Falcons. “We played a really good team, and it came down to a couple possessions. I keep on telling my team that championship basketball comes down to three or less points.”
— The Dialog (@DialogGBC) March 3, 2017
Having posted 17 points in the first half, Huskies guard Ajahmo Clarke looked as though he would carry George Brown to victory. Fanshawe evidently thought the same, and their efforts after halftime to deny Clarke the ball limited him to just two points over the last two quarters.
That, coupled with Bukovec and Dejazmatch (DJ) James fouling out, set the stage for Kevon Mascoe’s late-game heroics.
A feisty player whose skill is largely underrated thanks to his gritty style, Mascoe is considered by George Brown head coach Jonathan Smith to be “one of the most talented guards in the province, bar none.” With 1:16 remaining in the fourth, the Huskies guard dropped two free throws to tie the game at 74-74. Another trip to the line saw Mascoe give George Brown a 76-74 lead with just seconds left, one they would cling onto for the win. He finished the game with 13 points and seven rebounds, not to mention a perfect 6-for-6 from the free throw line.
— The Dialog (@DialogGBC) March 4, 2017
Clarke may be the OCAA’s all-time leading scorer, but he’s also a grizzled five-year collegiate veteran. A leader in assists as well as points, he understands how basketball is a team sport. When teams shut him down, George Brown’s multidimensional attack shines. “We’ve got a lot of scorers, of guys just as good as me,” said Clarke. “We’ve got Kevon, DJ, Matt, Jordan (Huskies guard Jordan James). Offensively they’re all skilled, they can score the ball.”
The victory earned George Brown a date with Niagara tonight, with the winner playing for OCAA gold and a trip to the national championship. While uncomfortable doesn’t begin to describe the win, Smith understands what time of year it is.
“Overall, I don’t care how we win,” said Smith. “Ugly, good, bad, by 30, by one. As long as you win, you move on. That’s all that matters at this point.”