Volume 93, Issue 82
Tuesday, March 7, 2000
Western hits road block en route to nationals
AND AT MY BACK I HEAR TIME'S WINGED CHARIOT DRAWING NEAR. This was the story for the men's basketball team on the weekend, as time ran out and Western fell to McMaster University.
The men's basketball team is down but not necessarily out after a heartbreaking divisional final loss to McMaster University on Saturday.
The Mustangs, who led 37-30 at the half, maintained their edge for most of the second, only to succumb to a late Marauder rally which secured a 74-69 victory and the Ontario University Athletics West division championship for the visitors.
McMaster head coach Joe Raso said he felt excited after the game. "The point is, the guys believed. We knew we had to win today. We did what we had to do," he said.
As disappointing as it was, the loss did not completely dash Western's national title hopes. The team now becomes eligible for one of two wild card slots in the eight-team Canadian championships, held the weekend of March 17 in Halifax. The Mustangs' fate now lies in the hands of a wild card committee, which will award the slots to the two teams they deem to be the best in Canada, who did not win their conference.
Western can make a strong case for itself as deserving one of those slots, since they enjoyed a number two national ranking heading into Saturday's game and even counting the defeat, have now lost only two games all season long.
Raso said he had little doubt Western would receive an invitation to play in Halifax. "We beat what I thought was the best team in the country in here tonight, in their gym and I feel good about that," he commented. "At the same time, I know if we want to win the national championship we're gonna have to play them again."
Craig Boydell, Western's head coach, expressed disappointment with the loss, but added he was convinced his team deserved a place at the table in Halifax.
"You can't have a quality team like we have and win the games we've won and not be disappointed when you don't win the championship," he remarked. "At the same time, we're trying to turn any negative emotions around from this immediately because, if we don't go to the nationals, there's no God in heaven."
Western co-captain Micah Bourdeau, who shot seven for 14 from the field to finish with 18 points, said he was stunned by the defeat. "I feel pretty bad. This is only the second time we've lost this year so I'm not really used to it," he said.
Now in his fifth and final year of athletic eligibility, Bourdeau said the loss was especially tough to swallow, since Saturday's game may have been his last.
"I feel worse because it's my last game in this building and possibly the last game in my college career," he said.
He shared his coach's conviction that the Mustangs' 26-2 overall record warranted a wild card nod. "We're going to assume that we are going [to the nationals], because if we didn't, that would be a travesty," he said.
McMaster trailed by as many as nine points in the second half, but chipped away steadily at Western's advantage until, with under two minutes remaining, Marauder guard Steve Maga hit a three-pointer to leapfrog his team into the lead, 70-69. Maga, who added a running bank shot and two free throws to clinch the win, ended the game with a total of 18 points.
With the victory, McMaster advanced to play Laurier University, the OUA East champion, in this Saturday's OUA finals.
The Mustangs now wait for the wild card announcement, which should be made sometime this week. "We're gonna practice soon and we're gonna practice like a team that's intent on winning the nationals," Boydell vowed. "We've certainly earned that right."
Copyright © The Gazette 2000