It was a wild weekend for the Brock Badgers men’s basketball team as they honoured the careers of two of the best players in Badgers history; Johneil Simpson and Cassidy Ryan. Saturday night saw a post-game ceremony for the two seniors where they were each given a framed Badger jersey, with distinct #11 and #35 on the front.
For the past five seasons, Simpson has etched himself among the top players to have ever worn a Badger jersey. As of today, Simpson sits third on the all-time scoring leaderboard, though he will pass his good friend and former teammate Dani Elgadi by seasons’ end to become the second highest scorer in Badger history. Simpson’s career accolades include the OUA and CIS (USports) Rookie of the Year award back in 2014/15 as well as two All-OUA Second Team appearances (and most likely a third after this year).
Ryan has played three seasons with the Badgers after transferring from the NCAA’s Canisius College back in 2016. Ryan was named to the All-OUA Second Team last season and will most likely secure another spot at the end of the season.
“You look on paper and they’ve both had tremendous careers,” said head coach Madhav Trivedi. “Cassidy only three [seasons] but you look at his numbers in three years, and how important his role was in developing this program has been fantastic. Johneil — just look at the numbers, they speak for themselves. More importantly, just the way about them, their way of life and how they carry themselves is huge for the program.”
In addition to the added pressure of Senior’s night, the Badgers and the Western Mustangs were set for a huge game that could decide which of the two teams would receive a first-round bye come playoffs. The Badgers started off extremely sloppy, turning the ball over 12 times in the first quarter and trailed by 10 after the first 10 minutes, but managed to trim the lead to four at the half.
The third quarter started slowly once again, as the Mustangs brought the lead back up to 12 before a much needed Badger timeout. Ryan followed that with a big putback slam to get the crowd on their feet before a Noah LaPierre three ball and a Mitch Saunders and-one trimmed the lead down to four.
The age-old saying ‘basketball is a game of runs’ was extremely evident in this one, as the Mustangs followed up Brock’s 8-0 run with a 10-0 run of their own to extend the lead to 13 after three quarters.
In what quickly turned into an instant classic, the Badgers fought through foul trouble from Ryan and Daniel Cayer to claw their way back, capped off by a huge four-point play from second-year guard Kascius Small-Martin that tied the game at 74. A pair of Michael Vos Otin layups and some Tyler Brown free-throws gave Brock a six point lead with 1:43 to go, but a pair of late Western threes forced the game into overtime.
The Badgers were in trouble early in the extra frame, as Ryan and Cayer both fouled out, forcing the Badgers’ top two rebounders out of the game. The Mustangs would take advantage, securing the 96-91 win in the closing minutes. Ryan led the way with 29 points and 12 rebounds, while Western’s Omar Shiddo scored a game high 33.
With Western sweeping the season series, the only way Brock can leapfrog Western and receive the ever so coveted first-round bye is if they win their final two games of the season and get some help from McMaster or Waterloo (as Western needs to lose a game to concede second place).
Sunday night saw the make-up game from the February 6 ice storm, and the last-place Warriors trudged into town having won just three games all year. The Badgers handed Waterloo their 11th straight loss, winning this one 95-81. Ryan once again led the Badgers with 28 points, while Simpson, Brown and LaPierre all scored in double figures. Nedim Hodzic led the Warriors with 27 points, while Warriors head coach Justin Gunter led the way with four ‘you’re-down-by-12-why-are-you-still-intentionally-fouling’ foul calls.
“We still need to continue to get better,” said Trivedi. “There’s still a lot of areas we need to get better. Dropping the Western game, being up six with a minute to go, we’re not too happy about that, and also the slow starts — [the Western] game was a slow start, [the Waterloo] game was a slow start, so right now we’re just really cued in on Lakehead. They’ve been playing really well, and we’re going into their house so we need to make sure we bring them everything we’ve got.”
The Badgers will face Lakehead on the road for a pair of games on Feb. 15 and 16, which will conclude their regular season schedule.