Some may argue that basketball is headed into an era where the old cliché, “defense wins championships” doesn’t apply.
Chances are Sukh Singh isn’t one of those people.
Again, the Red River head coach preached defense in an MCAC men’s basketball final. Again, his team came up big. Stopping the College Wesmen sharpshooters for the majority of the game, the Rebels won 72-56, and earned their unprecedented fifth straight championship. Never before has one MCAC team won five straight titles, in any sport.
With a tournament-high 26 points in the contest, Red River forward Corey Neufeld was named the Basketball Final 4’s MVP.
After a 23-point outburst in the semifinals, it was clear early that the Rebels were looking to slow down College Wesmen guard Mike Villanueva. Stymying him with ball pressure, Villanueva would go scoreless on 0-for-2 shooting in the first half. On offense, meanwhile, Red River pounced, as a fresh Mike Hebert made all the hustle plays – coming up with five points, three rebounds and a block in the first quarter before sitting most of the second.
In that second quarter, Neufeld began to take over. Perfect on his first four shots, he was able to push the Red River lead into double digits by himself. Despite solid efforts off the bench from Winnipeg forward Cam Roche, who finished with 15 points and six boards, the College Wesmen were unable to sustain a run in the first half.
That storyline only magnified in the second half. Villanueva began to look for his shot, and occasionally find it. He would finish with ten points, but on 3-of-12 shooting. As a team, Winnipeg went 5-for-18 from behind the arc, as the Rebels contested most of those looks.
With Roche the only constant on offense, the College Wesmen were simply unable to come back in the second half. The Rebels ball pressure and help defense was outstanding throughout the game, certainly deserving of another championship trophy.
With a double-double, 15 points and 12 rebounds, Mike Hebert was named the player of the game for Red River. Roche was given the honours for the College Wesmen.
For full Stat Tracker stats, including box scores and individual/team numbers, visit the MCAC Basketball Final 4’s stats page here.
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