OTTERBURNE, March 7, 2014 – In a day filled with upsets, overtime, and re-established dominance, the MCAC Championship matches have been set in stone as the MCAC Basketball season will come to a close tomorrow evening.
On the men’s side, it will be Canadian Mennonite University, who pulled the upset of the season defeating the College Wesmen in overtime, taking on the five-time defending champions, Red River College. Red River already clinched a spot to play for the Championship, but we now know they will be joined by Providence University College who pulled off an upset of their own defeating CMU.
For basketball fans, the tournament couldn’t have started off any better, as the fourth-seeded Canadian Mennonite University Blazers defeated the number-one seeded College Wesmen 97-92 in an overtime thriller.
In what was perhaps the most exciting basketball game of the MCAC season, CMU certainly didn’t look like the underdogs that they were, playing with a confidence that showed everyone that they certainly didn’t consider themselves a four-seed.
For the Blazers it was Ryan Kehler who was the difference, scoring a game-high 32 points, in over 42 minutes of court-time. Supporting Kehler’s offensive onslaught was a CMU defense that forced the College Wesmen to shoot from the outside, a huge reason they were able to come up with the win.
The pace was tremendous from the get-go. The Blazers came out to prove themselves against the top-seeded College Wesmen, and did just that. After taking a quick 11-5 lead to start the first, CMU never surrendered the lead in the first half, led by a 15-point first-half performance from Kehler.
The Wesmen however, know how to score – and despite some solid defensive stops from CMU, they stayed in the game, with Player of the Game Given Isaac playing a consistent part in their offense.
The second half was wilder than the first, as the two teams traded blows throughout, but with CMU continuing to hold the lead. At one point, the Blazers pulled ahead by ten, but the College Wesmen proved why they’re ranked number-one pulling a terrific comeback with a few huge Denzel Green threes, and Isaac continuing to find ways to the basket.
At the end of the fourth, each team dug deep and converted offensively, forcing the game to overtime after a pair of made Green free throws to tie it up. Overtime however, was all Blazers, as they held Winnipeg to just seven points, with Kehler once again carrying his team down the stretch for the 97-92 victory.
As the buzzer went, the CMU-packed crowd became unhinged; creating a truly special moment for a team who nobody thought could pull this victory off, creating far and away the highlight of the evening.
In the night’s lone women’s matchup, Providence wanted to make it a night of underdogs, defeating Canadian Mennonite University 62-52 to move on to the finals.
For Providence, it was their guards who led the charge offensively, with Breanne Nichol, Genadyn Charr, and Player of the Game Elena Rempel all reaching double digits in scoring.
The first quarter was the most competitive, with both teams locking in on defense, resulting in a 13-10 lead for Providence going into the second. From there, Providence blew the game open a bit with some tough threes by Nichol, who finished the half with 10 points, and the game high 19.
This game was a defensive showcase, so the seven-point lead Providence held at half time would prove to be difficult to overcome. Despite putting on a few runs, led by Player of the Game Cassie Wiebe, Providence always found a way to shut them down on the perimeter, and completed the upset with some key buckets down the stretch.
In the final men’s match of the evening, the Rebels proved to be too much for a Providence team that has had their moments this year, but weren’t able to put it all together in their final game of the season.
Leading the charge for Red River was Vince Munoz who was all over the scoresheet offensively and defensively, and Kevin Quirante, who went 5/7 from the three-point line to finish the game with a game high 17 points.
In this defensive matchup, Providence kept up with the defending champs early on, finishing the first quarter tied up at 14. But Red River has been here before, and began to really pull away after half time.
While shutting down Providence with their defense, Quirante caught fire, jacking up three after three, despite a Pilots defense that was playing him very tight. Once the Rebels caught a ten-point lead in the third quarter, things looked bleak for Providence, as they simply were unable to get a run going to get themselves back in the game.
The atmosphere in the crowd was electric, and it’s certainly not a far stretch that we’ll see something like that again tomorrow night. The women’s final will be played at 6 p.m. at Providence University College, followed by the men’s Championship at 8 p.m. Admission is $5.00, with students from MCAC member schools getting in for free with valid student I.D.