Shine of a great season remains despite 1-2 performance in national championship
Appearing on the national stage for the first time in 41 years, George Brown men’s basketball took its lumps.
The Huskies had genuine gold medal aspirations as they travelled to the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association’s (CCAA) national championship, hosted by Prince Edward Island’s Holland College.
But as the championship quarter-final wore on, George Brown had no defensive answer for Vancouver Island University. Mariners forward Usama Zaid showed why he was named CCAA player of the year, carrying his squad with a remarkable 42 point, 12 rebound performance.
The resulting 98-82 loss put gold out of reach, and it showed the following day during March 17’s bronze qualifier. After a tight beginning, George Brown’s spirit seemed to peter out against the Lethbridge Kodiaks. Lethbridge dropped 30 points in the second quarter to George Brown’s eight, and the Kodiaks roared to a 91-68 final score.
To their credit, the Huskies came to play to close out the tournament. In a feistier affair than one might expect in a placement game, George Brown at last displayed the basketball which earned them a spot in the first place. They were rewarded with a 95-74 win against the Mount Allison Mounties and a final ranking of seventh in the nation.
“It would have been bad if we left nationals 0-3,” said guard Teshayn Gayle. “It was good to show that we can play and beat a team at nationals.”
Though unhappy with the overall outcome, head coach Jonathan Smith lauded his team’s performance to end the tournament. Perspective is important for the 47-year-old, who reminded his squad that George Brown hadn’t been to a national championship since he was six years old.
“It’s been a long, long time,” said Smith. “The question is do we take what we’ve learned from this year and do we apply it?”
Nationals was a learning experience for coaches and players alike. Over their first two games, the Huskies were outscored in the paint by a combined 106-52. When asked about specific player needs, Smith was clear: “We need a big slug.”
Moving forward, the goal is for this level of achievement to be the new norm, rather than a one off. Manager of athletics and recreation Melanie Gerin-Lajoie described the season as a “stepping stone” for what George Brown varsity athletics has in store, while for Huskies guard-forward Kasey Morris, the experience of taking in nationals is something he and the team can now share with others.
“When the rookies come in, they’ll learn from us going into the season that you can’t take everything for granted,” said Morris. “Do the little things that got us to (nationals) and probably, hopefully, we will be back next year.”