It’s been three years since Brock Men’s Basketball last made the OUA playoffs, but it’s been five years since they last hosted, or won an OUA playoff game.
The hunger for success was growing within the locker room and into the Brock community. After selling out three of nine home games in 2014-15, the Badgers consistently sold out almost every game in the 2015-16 season.
Head coach Charles Kissi and his roster wanted to reward the Badger crowd that consistently made it out to games and, at times, even traveled with the team. However, Kissi and the men needed to prove to themselves that they were ready.
The Badgers weren’t anticipating making the national ranking in their 2015-16 season, but that’s exactly what had happened. After pre-season wins over Victoria, Ryerson and Windsor, the Badgers showed the CIS that they are contenders for the championship.
In 2013, when the Badgers made the playoffs, they took to Laurier for a quarter-final match-up. They would defeat the Golden Hawks 81-76 and eventually lose in the semi-finals to Windsor.
On March 2, 2016, the Badgers welcomed Laurier onto their home-court for a playoff match-up. You could feel the buzz on campus ahead of the game and as the crowd filled up the seats.
“It’s painful because you’re anxious for the game to start,” said Kissi about his preparation throughout the day leading to the game. “You’re nervous for your guys, you want them to play well. You just hope that they’re ready and you try to prepare them as best you can.”
The Golden Hawks came out a little more prepared then the Badgers, as they took a 7-2 lead on the home team. However, a Ryan Bennett three-ball and Dani Elgadi one-handed dunk tied the game and changed momentum.
Elgadi and Johneil Simpson would score the first 10 of 13 points for the Badgers, as they took a 23-22 lead after the first quarter.
Kissi over the last few games has begun going deeper into his bench, giving his starters much more needed rest throughout the game. One player that seems to be getting more court-time is Nathaniel Gardner.
Gardner, a fifth-year point guard for the Badgers is the only remaining player from the 2013 Brock playoff team. The guard had only played 15 minutes minutes or more twice this season, but was called on to play the most important minutes of his career on Wednesday night.
“He’s our fifth year veteran,” said Elgadi. “His IQ is up there when defending, and those fouls he gets is what we like because it shows he gets under the other players’ skin.”
Gardner scored four points in the game, but his larger role was to defend against the Golden Hawks, specifically the OUA’s eighth best scorer Will Coulthard. Thanks to Gardner’s defense, Coulthard was held to 14 points on three of 17 shooting.
“He’s a do-whatever-it-takes-to-win type of guy,” said Kissi in regards to Gardner. “I’m going to be working for the kid one day, he’s that type of guy.”
The Badgers as a team stepped it up in the second quarter as they held the Golden Hawks to 13 points, taking a close 42-35 lead at halftime.
It was a milestone night for Elgadi, who in his third-year has proven to be the best power forward in CIS. In the second quarter, Elgadi scored his 1,600th career point and grabbed his 900th career rebound. Elgadi now has 1,619 career points and 905 career rebounds.
“Just shows you how long I’ve been at Brock,” said Elgadi. “It was an opportunity [Kissi] gave me and I just took advantage of it. They let me play, develop and grow as an athlete and basketball player.”
“He’s the best at his position in the country, period,” remarked Kissi.
Laurier would come out the better team in the third quarter as a 9-2 run tied the game at 44, but Elgadi would take over. The big man scored 11 of his 29 game points in the third quarter to give the Badgers a 67-57 lead.
“[Laurier] made a run, which is what good teams do, but thank goodness we responded and Elgadi played fantastic,” said Kissi. “I’m proud of these guys for sticking through and getting it done.”
The Badgers would go on to defeat the Golden Hawks 98-80 after a strong offensive fourth quarter. Elgadi finished with a double-double as he added 11 rebounds to his 29 points. Simpson pitched with 21 points and eight rebounds.
The one guy the Badgers were happy to see finally have a good game was Ryan Bennett. A transfer student, Bennett was a scoring-wing who Kissi hoped would make an impact, but the fourth year player has struggled for a majority of the season. In this game, Bennett scored 20 points on seven of 13 shooting.
Brock would shoot 54.4 per cent for the game and held the Golden Hawks to 36.4 per cent from the field. There were some defensive breakdowns in the second-half for the Badgers as they allowed the Golden Hawks to shoot 43.8 per cent in the final two quarters.
“I think we did a good job defensively tonight. I know 80 points seems like a lot, but overall we were okay,” said Kissi. “We were able to keep Elgadi under 35 minutes and he stays efficient when you can do that. We moved the ball and that’s how we played at the beginning of the year. We have to continue to share it like we did. We have to rebound and run.”
The men now move onto the OUA quarter-finals as they will head to Ottawa to play the number three seed the Carleton Ravens.
“We aren’t too high or too low,” said Elgadi after the win. “We reflect on this, but it’s behind us now. When we go to visit a team like Carleton, it’s about being disciplined. It’s about not making mistakes.”
Elgadi also moved into fourth all-time in single-season rebounds in Brock history. He now has 355 for the season, and the school record is 391 held by Gord Wood.
In terms of Carleton, the Badgers lost at home this season to the Ravens 90-65. A majority of that loss had to do with the Badgers being held to seven points in the fourth quarter as they were down 66-58 heading into the final frame, but would go onto lose by 15.
“We have to go in with confidence. Anyone who thinks it can’t be done, can’t get on the bus,” said Kissi. “At this point, if win or go home is not enough to make you motivated, you’ve already lost.”
The Badgers will need to see a more effective game from their entire team outside of Elgadi and Simpson, to come out with a win on Saturday. In the first meeting between the Badgers and the Ravens, the Brock bench was held to one point the entire game. Bennett also struggled with only nine points, but as a team the Badgers will need to rebound better as they were out-rebounded 50-39.
The last time the Badgers won a home playoff game was in 2008, the same season they went on to win the CIS Championship. That same year, the Badgers came in as a lower seed to win. Now, in the OUA playoffs the Badgers will need a big upset to move on to the final-four.
In other OUA playoff games: number nine Lakehead defeated number eight Western 60-58 and will now play Ryerson; number five Windsor won 82-73 over number 12 Laurentian and will play McMaster; and Queen’s will play Ottawa as they Gaels dominated Toronto.
On the women’s side, the Badgers traveled to Guelph for their first playoff game in two years. Kate Harpur returned to the lineup for the Badgers after missing the final two regular season games. Unfortunately, Melissa Tatti would sit out for her third straight game due to an injury.
The Badgers and Gryphons met late last week for a final regular season game, and with the Gryphons winning that game, they clinched themselves home-court for Wednesday’s game.
Brock came out strong leading for the majority of the first-half, but the Gryphons would take a one point advantage at halftime. Offensively the Badgers struggled after the first quarter. They were held to 11 points in the second quarter, and a total of 19 points in the second half.
The Badgers entered the fourth quarter down seven, but could not stop the Gryphons, who went on to win 69-51. Guelph would shoot 40.9 per cent for the game, while the Badgers were held to 27.3 per cent. Brock shot one for 14 from deep, which ultimately hurt them in the end.
Gryphons were led by 19-points from Bridget Atkinson, Dana Van Balkom added 16 and Vanessa Rampado got herself a double-double with 12-points and 13-rebounds.
Jenalyn Yumol, Kate Harpur, Kayla Santilli, Becky Ralph and Dayna Howlett all played their final game as Brock Badgers. All five will be graduating after fantastic careers with the Brock Women’s Basketball team.
On Wednesday, the Badgers were led by Kira Cornelissen’s 14-points and seven rebounds. Santilli added 13 and Harpur had nine points, along with 11-rebounds.
Guelph will now play the number one seed Ottawa on Saturday. In other OUA playoff action: number six Windsor won 82-76, the Lancers will now play number three Carleton; number seven Western convincingly beat Toronto 91-51, Mustangs will play number two Ryerson; and number five Queen’s won 70-44 over Laurentian, Gaels will now play number four McMaster.
For Brock Men’s Basketball, they’ll travel to Carleton on March 5 for an OUA quarter-finals matchup that’ll tip-off at 8:00 p.m. Brock Athletics has begun planning a coach bus for students to travel to Carleton in support for the men – tickets are $20 and are available at the Walker Welcome desk. The bus leaves Brock at 12:00 p.m. Saturday, students are expected to find their own place to stay for the night as the bus will take them to downtown Ottawa following the game and will leave downtown Ottawa on Sunday morning. For more information check the weareready.co website.