Heartbreak in Ottawa

Turnbull dashes Western's title hopes with final second shot

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Matt Curtis reaches for the ball as it hits the rim

Shaun Ding

CAPITAL CITY CURSE. Mustangs guard Matt Curtis watches a shot bounce off front iron in Saturday’s semi-final game against the Carleton Ravens at Scotiabank Place in Ottawa.

Few words can adequately describe the emotions of Saturday’s semi-final contest between the Western Mustangs and the Carleton Ravens.

Revenge for last weekend’s Ontario University Athletics Wilson Cup final defeat and a shot at the national title were snatched from the Mustangs in the final second of the game, with a buzzer beater shot by Ravens first team all-star Stuart Turnbull.

“You just do it. It happens and you just do it,” Turnbull said of his heroics.

The game saw Mustangs head coach Brad Campbell meet his former high school coach, Ravens head coach Dave Smart, in what will go down as one as of the most exciting games in Canadian Interuniversity Sport history.

The first sequence of the first quarter " a three-pointer from Turnbull answered by a three-pointer from Mustangs guard Matt Curtis " was prophetic of the events ahead. The game’s sky-high intensity and rocket pace had the crowd of 7,942 mesmerized.

The neck-and-neck play saw both teams execute consistent offence and formidable defence, with neither team securing an advantage greater than eight points.

The Mustangs also showcased shooting excellence from beyond the arc, with Curtis, Alex Brzozowicz, Andrew Wedemire and Jason Milliquet all hitting key shots.

As the first half came to a close, the score was tied at 28 apiece

With the teams knotted up at 33-33 and then 44-44 in the second half, Ravens forward Aaron Doornekamp’s three pointer followed by Turnbull’s free throws at the end of the third quarter put Carleton up 51-46 heading into the final frame.

A Western player kneels at the sidelines in disappointment

“We came in absolutely confident that we could win, but we knew we’d have to play one hell of a game to do so,” Campbell said.

The Mustangs persistent play exemplified this mentality.

The fourth quarter saw Western forward Brad Smith sink a shot from downtown to bring the game within two.

Curtis stepped up nailing two foul shots to make the score 55-55 with just under five minutes to play. The tight officiating put both teams’ free throw shooting to the test during the game, something Campbell discussed.

“We definitely did a better job on the foul line in the second half,” he said.

After Wedemire fouled out late in the fourth, a call on Brzozowicz allowed Turnbull to give Carleton a five-point lead with just under two minutes to play in the game.

Redeeming himself with a three pointer with less than a minute on the clock, Brzozowicz brought the game within two.

After Doornekamp fouled out, with 13 seconds left in regulation, Western forward Keenan Jeppesen nailed a shot to put Western within one point of the Ravens.

Disappointed Western fans in the stands

Going zero for two on the free throw line, Turnbull missed a crucial opportunity to wrap up the game for the Ravens after a Mustangs foul with less than 10 seconds on the clock.

“We knew if we had a chance to win it, it could very well come down to the last possession,” Campbell said.

With just under five seconds on the clock and the Mustangs in possession, Turnbull fouled Curtis, sending him to the charity stripe. With nerves of steel, the fifth-year guard sank both shots to give the Mustangs a 65-64 lead.

While the Mustangs could practically taste the victory, five seconds proved to be an eternity.

Turnbull had the last word in the game, driving the length of the court and launching a 12-footer in the dying second of the game.

As the buzzer sounded, Western’s hopes of a national title were squandered as the perfect shot passed through the hoop, barely disturbing the mesh.

“For [Turnbull] to miss those two free throws and then come back the next play and make that shot ... it’s digging in and being a competitor,” Smart said of Turnbull’s perseverance.

“He could have been sulking about missing those two foul shots and instead he found a way to get inside himself and make the huge shot.”

With heavy hearts, the Mustangs players emerged from the dressing room to lingering friends and family who lent their support. While proud of his team’s efforts on the season, Campbell summarized the team’s feeling after the defeat.

“Myself and every member of our team [feels] like we had our heart ripped out.”

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