OCAA championship defeat dubbed “great learning experience”
As the curtains came down on this year’s Ontario Colleges Athletic Association (OCAA) championship with a double defeat for both the men’s and women’s basketball teams, the players walked away with their heads held high, confident that they gave a solid performance.
There was a nail-biting showdown with George Brown College’s (GBC) women’s team as they took on St. Clair for a shot at the nationals. After a solid showing in the first half of the game, the Huskies were edged out 82-75 by the Saints in overtime.
GBC rookies Ashley McDonald and Merrissa Moore faced off against St. Clair’s all-Canadian powerhouse Shannon Kennedy in the first round, and following a heart-racing back and forth, the Huskies took a slim 46-45 lead into the fourth quarter.
With the ball back in St. Clair’s court at 66-64 and a mere 12 seconds remaining, it was time to pull out GBC’s big gun, OCAA all-star Tianna Sullivan, who had already secured a whopping 19 points.
Sullivan, carrying the faith of her team on her back, was sent to the line with one second to spare, taking the game into overtime.
Despite all efforts, the Huskies were crushed by three fouls during overtime, coupled with veteran guard Aprille Deus being benched due to an injury.
Sullivan played her heart out and by the end of the game recorded a stellar 28-point, 14-rebound performance, earning her the player of the game honours as a result.
Head coach Warren Williams said it was “a great learning experience” for the women’s team. He said that the team put on a history-making performance this year, having being able to step up their style of play.
“I think we did a really good job at establishing our style of play in the first half but I do believe our inexperience (at the OCAA championships) and St. Clair’s perseverance really caught up with us in the second half and overtime,” said Williams. “It took quite an effort just to get the game to overtime but I think it was just a little too much for us.”
This year marks the first time women’s basketball team booked a spot in the OCAA championship in the last five years.
For the men’s team the momentum was dampened as they went head-to-head with rivals Humber College on Friday, March 2.
The men’s impressive 18-2 season record fell apart during the biggest game, and they found themselves taken down just steps away from the title.
Taking advantage of the previous thrashing, the Lambton Lions swept in finishing the next game, and the men’s season, 92-84.
Coming in for high praise was OCAA all-star guard Dejazmatch James, who wrapped up his Huskies career with a team-high 25 point performance. Meanwhile, OCAA East Division rookie of the year Adam Costanzo was named the Huskies’ player of the game after raking in 16 points and 11 rebounds.
Despite the men’s team falling short of the title for the second year in a row, head coach Jonathan Smith commended the performance of his team throughout the season.
“It was a fantastic season but we need to learn how to take all the different aspects of what we learned and get ready to play those games heading into to provincials to get to the national championship,” said Smith
Smith said that they suffered the loss of valuable players at the most crucial time, due to injuries.
“Our top scorer from the Humber game De-Shaun Williams was injured. He ended up playing the whole Humber game with a broken hand and had to sit out the next game obviously and also Matthew Bukovec,” said Smith.
Meanwhile, already eyeing the national championships next year, both teams have returned to the drawing board with fitness assessments planned for the upcoming months and talks of an off-season training program.
Recruiting new players is however the main focus as the college bids farewell to several noteworthy players.