The Rebels men’s basketball team is back on top after defeating the Canadian Mennonite University Blazers 88-75 in the 2018 MCAC Men’s Basketball Championship on Saturday.
They were led by conference scoring leader, Chris Demauleon-Bartolay, who had a game-high 23 points including five triples and a couple momentum shifting hustle plays on defence.
Chris chooses to pass the praise on to his teammates, however, as Rebels big men Steve Williamson and Mark Ridd were difference makers on Saturday after both joining the Rebels late in the season.
“Rebounding, defence, and overall hustle,” said Demauleon-Bartolay. “They changed the whole culture of our team.”
Ridd was a beast on the boards and controlled the paint for most of the afternoon. He pulled down 16 rebounds and scored 10 points to earn the double-double while adding four blocked shots, a couple of which came at key moments down the stretch in the fourth quarter.
Williamson added 20 points including 15 in the second half coming down the final stretch of the game. He made his presence known on the defensive end as well by locking down Blazers second-year guard Jaden Harms.
|Blazers guard Jaden Harms / HEIDI MARTENS|
Harms had himself a tough game offensively and struggled to find any rhythm early going scoreless in the first half. Kniel Sullera, his former high school teammate at Fort Richmond, did his best to pick up the slack in the first half by hitting a couple threes and being very active on the boards. Sullera finished with 16 points and 14 rebounds.
The second half was highlight by a duel of sixth men between the Blazers Nicolas Kasmik (18 points) and the Rebels Jaired Gairing (20 points) who went back and forth at the end of the third quarter. The run between the two was capped off with a deep three from Gairing to beat the buzzer and a polite bow to the crowd.
|Rebels guard Jaired Gairing / HEIDI MARTENS|
Gairing left his fingerprints all over this game highlighted by leading the game-clinching run with five minutes to go.
Gairing put up an impressive stat line with 20 points, seven rebounds, and six assists earning himself MVP honours.
“Man, it feels really good,” said Gairing. “I’ve never won anything before. It feels really good.”
Rebels head coach Scott Kirkpatrick remembers what it felt like to give up the eight-straight championships last season, but mentions it’s performances like Gairing’s that help teams win big games.
“Jaired really comes to play in these big moments,” said Kirkpatrick. “He makes the big play, the right play, the exciting play. He just does his job and guys love to play with him.”
With just under five minutes to go, Blazers star Jaden Harms committed his fifth and final foul on a charge call on Williamson that ultimately ended the Blazers chance for a fourth-quarter comeback.
The Rebels dribble out the clock and reclaimed the MCAC men’s basketball crown once again. But their battle with the Blazers has a part-two coming this weekend, as they face each other once again in the upcoming NIAC Tournament.
The third-seed Rebels (8-3) will take on the sixth-seed Blazers (6-6) in Fort Totten, North Dakota on Thursday at 2:15 at Candeska Cikana Community College.