Badgers national title hopes end early

U Sports

U Sports

Normally the box scores don’t tell the full story, but for the second consecutive game the Brock Badgers had a shooting percentage that spoke loudly about the end results.

In the OUA semi-final game versus Ryerson, the Badgers were held to 28.1 per cent shooting. That performance transferred over to the opening game of the U Sports national tournament for the Badgers.

After the first half the Badgers were shooting 30.3 per cent from the field and had 11 turnovers. They trailed the Calgary Dinos 38-29 at half, but it was the Badgers ability to chip away at the lead that was key.

“No body misses shots on purpose, it’s part of the game,” said head coach Charles Kissi about his teams inability to make shots. “It’s important to get off to a good start, but its how you finish.”

The Badgers would outscore the Dinos in the second, third and fourth quarter.

Kissi referenced little plays like the ball being tipped out of bounds and rebounding as other factors that impact the game. He didn’t want to point at one aspect of the game.

“At the end of the day, as [Toronto Raptors guard] Fred Van Vleet said to us, you gotta leave it all on the floor and be happy with the result,” said Kissi. “I made a ton of mistakes, but as a coach I’m already thinking about some of things we could have done differently.”

The Badgers continued to chip away going into the third quarter, with a little of their offense beginning to show signs of coming to life. The third frame saw the Badgers shoot 50 per cent on route to making the final quarter a lot more interesting.

Johneil Simpson began to find his stroke and a couple huge Tyler Brown three’s put the Badgers back into the game in the late minutes. The Badgers largest lead would also come late in the fourth, but the Dinos began to find open shots – as Brock defenders would get caught up on screens.

The Badgers would tie the game 76-76 with 1:40 left and got a huge defensive stop. However, Dani Elgadi’s turnover gave the Dinos the opportunity to take a late lead.

Mambi Diawara would make an easy layup to give the Dinos the lead with 45 seconds left. Kissi was forced to call his final timeout, which led to Cassidy Ryan missing a three.

With still time on the clock, the Badgers elected not to foul down two. It turned out to be a good decision as Calgary’s David Kapinga would miss a layup giving the Badgers the ball down two with 10 seconds left.

With no timeouts, Daniel Cayer passed the ball off to Johneil Simpson, who took a difficult three with time winding down.

“We got the ball and got what we got,” said Kissi about the last possession. “We want a better shot in a better situation [but] we have to live with it.”

And like that the Badgers hopes of a national banner came to an end, with the Dinos winning 78-76.

”I never define our season by one game,” said Kissi. “I think we’ve had a remarkable season if people give us credit for it or not.”

The Badgers did finish the regular season with a program high 21 wins and made the first trip to the nationals since 2008.

Simpson led the Badgers with 24 points on nine of 17 shooting, he also had 12 rebounds for the game. Diawara would lead the Dinos with 19 points and Kapinga added 19. Lucas Mannes came off the bench to score 16 for the Dinos.

“You have to be proud of this program that started from the ground up,” said Kissi.

Proud is an understatement, as the program saw its final chance to win a title with cornerstone Dani Elgadi. This is a program that has stormed onto the national scene in the span of five seasons.

Elgadi, a Waterloo native, finished with 20 points and has had a historic career with the Badgers.

“For my initial emotions its tough,” said Elgadi after the game. “I’m still trying to soak in how I’m feeling, but I’m an athlete, we still have games to play.”

“I told him when we recruited him, we would give him a chance to get here (the Final 8),” said Kissi.

Elgadi’s career as a Badgers isn’t quite over and neither is his teams run in Halifax. The Badgers will now play UNB on Saturday in a consolidation semi-final matchup.

“This is a kid that came to our program that was one of the worst in the country. That in itself speaks volumes about the type of character he is,” said Kissi, as he continued on his graduating forward. “He could have gone to other places. When a kid wants to add value to a program, that’s special.”

“If I were to start this program all over again, [Elgadi] would be our first piece.”

In terms of the head coach, he did something not many coaches have ever done. For Kissi to take a four-win team in his first year as head coach to the national tournament in year five, says a lot about what he has meant to the program.

With Elgadi set to graduate, the torch will be passed onto Simpson, Cassidy Ryan, and other veterans on the Badgers. However, the goal is still to end on a high note with a potential two games remaining in the 2017-2018 season.

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