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Heartbreak in Halifax
By Joel Brown
HALIFAX, NS The Brandon Bobcats have proven they not only have the Mustangs' number, but their cell, fax and pager digits too.
And anytime the Bobcats ring, only bad news comes of it.
For the second year in a row, Brandon has knocked out Western's men's basketball team in the dwindling seconds of the Canadian Intercollegiate Athletics Union Final Eight championship tournament in Halifax.
With 18 seconds left to play in Saturday's game, Bobcat guard Tyrone Smith drove past Western's defence to lay in the game winner off the glass, sending the game to its final score of 77-76.
The loss was devastating to the No. 2-ranked Mustangs especially since they had held a comfortable lead for much of the game.
"Right now, we're trying not to think about it," said forward Matt Tweedie, Western's captain. "You can reflect on what could have been, but nothing is going to change."
Regrets were not hard to come by as the Mustangs not only allowed Brandon to get back into the game, but missed a chance to win the game in its final seconds.
With 3.6 seconds left, Western guard Mark Porte, who had been shooting well for most of the weekend, missed an open 20-footer while teammate Chedo Ndur's tip-in attempt rimmed out as the final buzzer sounded.
Last year, the Mustang's opportunity to play in the championship final was also killed by Brandon, by way of a last-second Bobcat shot form midcourt that found it's way to the bottom of the bucket.
The Mustangs were able to maintain a healthy lead until halfway through the second quarter, when Brandon went on a 13-2 run to come within two points of Western.
"Coach [Jerry Hemmings] said we're not on our A game, that we were playing a C+ game," said Smith. "That got us going."
Brandon shot 55.3 per cent in the second half and also stepped up their defensive pressure, which caused several Mustang miscues.
"I thought there were some tough calls that could have gone our way, but we blew it by committing too many turnovers," Tweedie said of the Mustangs 13, second half give aways.
Smith, who scored 19 points, was named player of the game.
Western forward, Andy Kwiatkowski, had a monster game, scoring 25 points while taking down 21 rebounds, 15 of which were the offensive variety.
Even though Western has been ranked very high in national polls over the last few years, they have not been able to come away with a CIAU national title since 1991.
For fifth-year centre Rich Tamminga, who along with Tweedie has exhausted his eligibility and lost the opportunity to add the most coveted recognition in Canadian men's university basketball to his resume.
"It's always been a matter of bragging rights for players," Tamminga said. "You're not really remembered by your winning percentage, but by how many national titles you've won. I feel bad for the guys that never got it, it's definitely a great team."
To get to the semi-final game, Western handily beat the Victoria Vikes 77-64 on Friday in their first game of the tournament. The Mustangs launched an incredible 31 three-point attempts while Kwiatkowski lead with 24 points and 17 rebounds.
Kwiatkowski was also named to tournament all-star team, along with McMaster guard Steve Maga, Earnest Bell and teammate guard Charles Weasel Head, and St. Francis Xavier forward Fred Perry.