Photo By: Mackenzie Gerry
For the first time in 30 years, the Brock Badgers men’s basketball team has won the OUA championship. The Badgers defeated the Queen’s Gaels 95-75 on home soil to capture the Wilson Cup in front of a sold-out Bob Davis Gymnasium.
The Badgers were led offensively once again by OUA West MVP TJ Lall, who was also named Finals MVP after putting up a game-high 27 points off 11-16 shooting to go along with eight boards and six assists. Lall had 13 in the third quarter alone, doing so off difficult fallaway jumpers and finishing through contact.
“We were just running a hand off,” said Lall, speaking of the Badgers’ third quarter strategy. “They were switching all the ball screens and we were just trying to go at their bigs and attack them downhill.”
Godsman Kwakwah added 15 and eight, Kascius Small-Martin tacked on 12, while Daniel Caldwell came off the bench with 17 points off perfect 5-5 shooting, including 4-4 from deep.
“That’s just Caldy,” said head coach Willy Manigat. “That’s what we expect from him and no one’s surprised about it. I’m not going to pretend to be surprised about that. Our guys are confident, our guys play hard, they train hard, and they deserve to come out here and have success and do it on the biggest stage.”
Caldwell is one of four Badgers who predated Manigat, who took over the program ahead of the 2019-20 season. Along with Daniel Cayer, Small-Martin, and Kwakwah, that foursome has persevered through a lot to finally be able to raise a banner. Cayer says getting to do it with that core group makes winning the title extra special.
“There’s been so many ups and downs, so to be able to do it with your brothers, knowing that they’ve always had your back no matter what? It’s the best feeling in the world, you can’t beat it,” said Cayer.
“I’m just happy for them,” said Manigat, when speaking about the four of them. “At the end of the game I was talking to all of them. They had three coaches in three years when I took over, and for them to still buy in and get to this point and not lose track of who they are and who we are as a team is what it’s all about and I’m proud of them.”
Cayer and Small-Martin are playing in their final season with the Badgers, so to be able to cap off their careers at Brock with a championship is, as Manigat called it, the best way to end their stories.
“It means everything,” said Cayer. “With [COVID-19], and having to sit out a year, and just keep working, trusting the process, and just knowing that what Willy was putting together was going to ultimately bring us here is crazy, it’s surreal.”
Despite all of the success this year’s team has had, they’re not quite done yet. The Badgers will be off to Edmonton shortly to compete in the U Sports Final 8 national tournament and will look to win the program’s third national championship in school history, having previously been accomplished in 1992 and 2008. Lall says that that goal has been there since the start of the season.
“Championship is the goal, always, since the beginning of the year,” he said. “We just gotta play our game, play hard, we’ll be alright.”
Cayer echoed that same sentiment.
“We’re just ready,” he said. “I don’t know how to explain it, it’s just a feeling. We’ve put in the work, and we know we’ve put in the work, and that just gives us all the confidence in the world to just go into nationals and expect more. More than just the OUA, we want the whole U Sports national title. We’re ready.”
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