Volume 92, Issue 92
Tuesday, March 23, 1999
Back to back wins little consolation
By John Dinner
HALIFAX After Friday's disappointing loss, the Mustang men's basketball team could be excused if they decided to mail one in.
With a heart-breaking and gut-wrenching loss to the seventh seeded St. Mary's Huskies on Friday, the Mustangs had no chance at winning the prize they had travelled to the East Coast for the national championship. Despite that fact, the team decided they needed to send a message to the rest of the teams in the CIAU and leave Halifax on a winning note.
On Saturday, in their first game of the consolation round, the Mustangs took on the third seeded Victoria Vikings, who had been upset on Friday by the sixth ranked McMaster Marauders, 71-58.
The Vikings, ranked No. 1 in Canada for most of the year, boast CIAU player of the year Eric Hinrichson and CIAU rookie of the year Robbie Green and were expected to challenge for national supremacy. The disappointment of their loss was evident as they were crushed by the second seeded Mustangs, 79-54.
"After [Friday's] loss I was told that there were two ways to respond, the right way and the wrong way. We came out today and proved what kind of team we are," said Western head coach Craig Boydell. "[Victoria] is an excellent team, one of the best in the country and we just played a real strong and complete game."
The story of the game was the ability of Mustang centre Chris Brown to control Hinrichson, limiting him to 12 points and eight rebounds.
"It was a tough game to get up for but we knew we had to play it and there is only one way to play once the game starts," Brown said. "I wanted to play well. I saw this as a big challenge to go against one of the best in the country."
The Mustangs continued their winning ways on Sunday as they took on the defending national champions and fifth seeded Bishop's Gaiters in the consolation final, taking it in fine "come from behind" fashion, 78-73.
Both teams admitted while this was not the game they were expecting to play Sunday, it was acknowledged to end the season with a win is rare.
"There are only two teams in the country that truly get to end their seasons with a win," said Bishop's head coach Eddie Pomykala. "Western played real well down the stretch, hit some big shots and deserved to win."
Trading baskets most of the game, neither team had a double digit lead. The Mustangs were able to stage a late run when trailing to pull out the win, mostly on the strength of all-Canadian forward Nat Graham (21 points, eight rebounds), making his last appearance in a Mustang uniform.
"Nat was really disappointed with the loss to St. Mary's, but one of the reasons he was all-Canadian was because of his unselfish play," Boydell said. "He just said to the guys that this was one more opportunity to play together and he responded with a great game."
A few years ago Graham couldn't have even fathomed playing basketball north of the border [he played basketball at the University of Pennsylvania], but he now believes it was the best decision he ever made.
That decision was rewarded after the game as the all-Canadian was named the team's most valuable player.
Day 1: Friday, March 19
Game 1 Alberta 100 Ryerson 83
Game 2 Brandon 76 Bishop's 60
Game 3 Saint Mary's 66 Western 62
Game 4 McMaster 71 Victoria 58
Day 2: Saturday, March 20
Consolation Western 79 Semifinal: Victoria 54
Consolation Bishops 81 Semifinal: Ryerson 77
Championship Alberta 79
Semifinal: Brandon 74
Saint Mary's 77 McMaster 68
Day 3: Sunday, March 21
Consolation Western 79 Final Bishops 73
Championship Saint Mary's 73 Final Alberta 69
Copyright © The Gazette 1999