Photo By: Stephen Leithwood
One of the most historic seasons in Brock men’s basketball program history came to an end this weekend after the Badgers were eliminated in the U Sports Final 8 national tournament in Edmonton. The Badgers lost a tightly contested quarterfinal matchup to the Saskatchewan Huskies by a score of 77-74 on Friday, thus ending their chance at a national championship.
The Badgers came out of the gates incredibly slow, trailing 22-9 after the first quarter. From that point on Brock actually outplayed the Huskies, but their poor start was ultimately too much to overcome. TJ Lall, who was named a First Team All-Canadian prior to the game, was incredible in the second half, scoring 22 points in the half including 13 in the fourth quarter. He finished with 26 points off just 11 total shots. Kascius Small-Martin was great as well, scoring 23 off 50 percent shooting, but aside from Lall and Small-Martin, the rest of the team combined for just 24 points off 10-32 shooting.
The Huskies and Badgers traded buckets all fourth quarter long, but the game took a big swing with 1:03 left when Saskatchewan’s Marquavian Stephens connected on a four-point play to tie the game. Jordan Tchuente was called for his fifth and final foul in the process, as the double-whammy not only tied the game but forced Brock’s best big to the bench for the final minute.
Still, after a pair of big-time free throws from Lall, the Badgers were up 74-73 with seconds to go, until a Stephens layup put the Huskies up front 75-74 with six seconds left. The subsequent Badger inbound pass was deflected and stolen, and some late-game free throws sealed the win for the Huskies.
It’s a bit of a disappointing end for what was otherwise such a tremendously successful season, one that saw Brock dominate the OUA West from October througho the OUA playoffs, where they won just their second conference championship in program history. Lall was named OUA West MVP, a First Team All-Canadian, and a First Team OUA All-Star, Small-Martin was named a Second Team All-Star, and head coach Willy Manigat was named Coach of the Year, not to mention the 17-1 conference record and league championship.
Brock then went on to the consolation bracket where they lost to Dalhousie, who lost to Queen’s in their quarterfinal matchup, to officially end their season. Saskatchewan then beat Queen’s in the semis to advance to the national championship game to face the Carleton Ravens, who beat Victoria and the hometown Alberta Golden Bears to reach the finals. The Bears dispatched McGill in round one, but ultimately fell to the Ravens by one point in what was another incredible game.
After getting upset on their home floor by Queen’s in the OUA semis, ending a streak of 14 consecutive OUA Finals appearances, the Ravens made up for it in a big way by beating Saskatchewan to win yet another national championship. This title marks the third straight national championship for Carleton, and their unbelievable 16th national title in the past 19 seasons.
Looking ahead to next season, the Badgers are losing some serious firepower in Lall and Small-Martin, as well as key rotation pieces in Daniel Cayer, Jesse Barnes, and Emmanuel Owootoah. Godsman Kwakwah and Daniel Caldwell will remain as team elders, while Tchuente, Isaiah Bujdoso, and Asare Otchere should all be back to defend their title.
Tchuente in particular is poised for a breakout year; the improvement he showed in the second half of the season was incredible and very much real. Now with an entire offseason in the program — and with the departure of Barnes and Cayer, the Badgers are losing some depth up front — he should slot into a starting role and flourish. The foundation is there, the culture is there, and with Manigat’s recruiting prowess, expect the Badgers to once again contend for the OUA crown come 2022-23.