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Host Trojans crowned CCAA Champions

Gold Medal Match: SAIT Trojans 96, Dawson Blues 81

Story credit: Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association.

For the second straight season, the CCAA Men’s Basketball National Championship celebrations began on home court.

Riding the wave of the home crowd in Calgary, the SAIT Trojans, making their sixth consecutive appearance on the national stage, finally got the job done as they defeated the Dawson Blues 96-81 to claim the gold medal at the University of Calgary’s Jack Simpson Gymnasium on Sunday.

Overall, it’s the third championship in Men’s Basketball for the Trojans and their first since 1986, which was the end of a run of five consecutive national medals that began with the 1982 title, where they also defeated Dawson College.

For the Blues, it was their second straight national medal after winning bronze one year ago.

CCAA All-Canadian and First All-Tournament Team honouree Marcus Masters was SAIT’s player of the game on the biggest stage with a game-high 28 points, three rebounds and three assists, while fellow First All-Tournament Team honouree Marc-Denault Gabriel added 16 points and eight rebounds.

Meanwhile, Charlie Conner, in his final post-secondary game for the Trojans, posted 23 points on 6-of-8 three-point shooting to go with five assists, three rebounds and three steals en route to being named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.

For Dawson College, First All-Tournament Team member Iman Kheirati led the way with 27 points, six rebounds and three assists, while Christian Payawal added 11 points, and player of the game Schumel Shepherd put up nine points off the bench.

After a relatively even start to the matchup, the Trojans fed off the home crowd, which featured members of the 1982 and 1986 championship teams, to seize momentum and build up a 19-8 lead in the opening six minutes, then continued riding the wave to a 31-17 lead to end the first quarter.

The second quarter saw the Blues getting more comfortable in their surroundings as they trimmed the Trojans lead to eight mid-way through the frame. However, Dawson would get no closer before halftime as the Trojans pushed back to stretch their lead as far as 15, though the Blues cut the gap to 50-40 heading to the locker room.

Dawson carried over the late second quarter momentum into the third, as they further cut the SAIT lead to four early in the frame. However, it wasn’t long before the Trojans restored their double-digit lead, punctuated by a Conner pull-up three with six minutes to play. From there, SAIT continued to push the lead further on the strength of their three-point shooting, with Conner’s fourth three of the quarter coming at the buzzer to put the Trojans up 73-54.

From there, the wave only continued to build, with the Trojans shooting 53.3 per cent from three-point range in the fourth to go up 25 with 3:11 to play, and the celebrations were on in full force.

Now, the nation’s attention will turn to the east coast, as Mount Allison University in Sackville, N.B. will host the 2024 CCAA Men’s Basketball National Championship from March 13-16, 2024.

Bronze Medal Match: VIU Mariners 109, St. Clair Saints 100

The Vancouver Island University (VIU) Mariners will head back to Nanaimo, BC, with hardware, coming back from a 21-point deficit to defeat the St. Clair Saints 109-100 to capture the bronze medal at the 2023 CCAA Men’s Basketball National Championship.

It’s the fourth national medal for the Mariners in 11 seasons under CCAA Coach of the Year Matt Kuzminski, which also includes two titles (2013, 2019) and a silver medal in 2015.

Landon Radliff, one of three fifth-year Mariners completing their post-secondary eligibility, earned player of the game honours for VIU with a team-high 31 points to go with seven assists and five rebounds, while fellow graduating players Richard Henderson (27 points, 13 rebounds, three steals) and CCAA All-Canadian Tori Odom (eight points, five assists) each made their mark on the contest; Akoi Yuot also played a pivotal role in the comeback with a monstrous 30-point, 15-rebound performance.

For St. Clair, CCAA All-Canadian Shakael Pryce picked up player of the game recognition with a game-high 32 points to go with five rebounds and four assists, while Jalen Harmon added 13 points, six rebounds and three assists as he wrapped up his post-secondary playing career; Terence Williams and Darnelle Peddie also posted 10 points apiece.

The Saints opened up the game on a 7-0 run spanning the opening three minutes of the first quarter, only for the Mariners to push back and bring the game to within two later in the frame. However, Peddie went on an 8-0 run by himself to push the Saints lead out further, eventually ending the quarter up 26-13.

An early second quarter timeout briefly energized the Mariners as they cut into St. Clair’s lead, only for the Saints to lock in on defence to extend their lead, forcing VIU into another timeout with 3:52 left and the Saints up 41-22. The rest of the quarter opened up considerably after that, with the Saints taking a 58-39 lead into halftime, with their lead stretching as far as 21 at one point.

VIU then executed a dominant third quarter, almost completely erasing the deficit within five minutes as they stormed back to get within one of the Saints at 64-63. After St. Clair briefly settled things down, the Mariners provided yet another pushback, taking their first lead of the game with 1:53 left on a floater from Odom in the lane, though the Saints would escape the quarter with a slim 75-74 lead.

The fourth was largely a back-and-forth struggle on both sides, with neither side letting the other get ahead by more than two possessions most of the way. However, the Mariners ultimately achieved the separation they needed to wrap the game up through a 10-2 run to push their lead to 101-93 with 1:32 remaining. 

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