The hometown Saint Mary’s Huskies advanced to the consolation final with an 84-67 victory over the Concordia Stingers at the U SPORTS Men’s Basketball Final 8 tournament.
“I thought we played pretty hard, considering we were in the consolation round, where no one wants to be,” said Saint Mary’s head coach Jonah Taussig.
In the opening six minutes of the game, the Stingers jumped to a razor-thin 14-13 advantage, on the strength of a pair of three-pointers from Adrian Armstrong, while Second Team All-Canadian Ricardo Monge chipped in five points.
Nikita Kasongo meshed seven for the Huskies, including a three-pointer.
“He had a really strong game for us,” said the AUS Coach of the Year of his sophomore guard, who garnered Player of the Game for his team.
Saint Mary’s finished the first quarter on a 12-2 spurt to take a 25-16 advantage, keyed by five consecutive points from Johneil Johnson, including a buzzer-beating bucket from downtown.
It took more than two minutes for the first points of the second quarter to be scored, with reserve Qyemah Gibson giving the Huskies a double-digit lead, at 28-16, before electrifying the crowd with a blocked shot on the interior, which led to a Concordia shot-clock violation.
“Our plan was to give our younger guys some minutes, so they could get experience playing on this floor,” Taussig said of using his reserves. “Our starters got off to a slow start and our bench gave us a spark.”
Monge, with a corner shot from beyond the arc, stopped what had become a 15-2 surge by the Huskies spanning the first and second quarters.
A lay-up from Gibson and three-pointer from Kasongo expanded the Huskies’ lead to 35-20 with less than five minutes left until halftime.
Olivier Simon of the Stingers banked in a shot from downtown to make it 40-26 for Saint Mary’s in the final two minutes of the second quarter.
The Huskies led 42-28 at halftime.
After Saint Mary’s scored the first four points in a sluggish opening of the third quarter for both teams, Simon cut the deficit to 46-31 with an old-fashioned three-point play – the hoop and the harm.
On the strength of a pair of free throws from Kasongo, the Huskies’ lead ballooned to 52-31, just three minutes in.
After a three-pointer from homegrown product Will Spaulding, Saint Mary’s enjoyed their largest lead, 64-40, at that point of the game.
The Stingers continued to battle, with Sami Ghandour making a lay-up, after taking a hard foul, and then completing the three-point play with a foul shot.
The Huskies led 67-49 after three quarters.
After the teams traded hoops early in the fourth, a steal and lay-up from Nico Brauner put the Huskies up 76-54.
Midway through the final stanza, the Stingers – ignited by three-pointers from Ghandour and Tariq Barki-Hamad, along with acrobatic lay-ups from Armstrong and Monge – made a 10-2 run to shave the Huskies’ advantage to 78-64.
Concordia could not get any closer and Saint Mary’s sealed the deal.
Kasongo finished with 23 points, while Brauner and Johnson finished with 15 and 13, respectively.
Brent Martindale, Kasongo and Gibson chipped in seven rebounds apiece.
Ghandour provided a double-double for the Stingers – 13 points and 12 rebounds – while Monge and Armstrong also contributed 12 points each.
Bakri-Hamad, off the bench, also hit double figures with 10 points.
The Huskies will tip off against the winner of the UBC Thunderbirds and Alberta Golden Bears consolation semifinal matchup in the consolation final at 11 a.m. ET / 8 a.m. PT on Sunday, while the season ends for the Stingers with the loss.
Players of the Game
- Concordia: Ricardo Monge
- Saint Mary’s: Nikita Kasongo