Sunday, March 16, 2008


Between the overtimes, an earnest volunteer walked along press row, handing out up-to-date stats from the first 45 minutes of -- all together now -- the greatest university basketball game ever played in this country, walked along press row, dutifully passing out stats sheets.

The impulse was to grab it and rip into tiny pieces. Other than out of professional obligation, who wanted to fact-check for a game like this? The only numbers that matter today are Acadia 82, Carleton 80 in double overtime, the Ravens' run deep-sixed (groan) in front of 9,316 fans at Scotiabank Place. On the backs of two big men from Ottawa, Achuil Lual and Leonel Saintil, who helped slow the country's most outstanding player, Aaron Doornekamp, the cocksure handle of Paulo Santana and on the wings of three-pointers by Peter Leighton and Andrew Kraus, the Axemen played near-perfectly. That's what it takes to beat one of Dave Smart's teams, even when they're at less than their best.

The one opinion I had to have was that of Lual, whose stuff on a Jean-Emmanuel Jean-Marie layup with Carleton trying to go up by three inside of the 1:40 mark in regulation was one of about a hundred little plays that might have been the difference. Trust a guy whose teammates often pronounce his nickname "Ash" to remember the last time in Canadian hoops that a championship run like this went up in smoke.

"If you do the history, there was a team in the '80s that won a bunch of years in a row, the University of Victoria," Lual said. "They were 18-0 (at nationals), undefeated, and that ended against a small-town school that played with a lot of heart, and that was Acadia University," he said. "It's come full circle."

That was 1988, when Victoria was a year removed from their seven-in-a-row run, but had won 18 straight tournament games -- just like Carleton, if you count a couple consolation contests from 2001. Those Axemen lost the final to Brandon and even though coach Les Berry's team knows their history, they could repeat it today vs. another BU, the Brock Badgers, who are on a pretty good roll themselves. However, the one sentiment that was repeated over and over among the people who remained on the floor about half an hour after Carleton's last shot came up short at the buzzer was that no one will remember who won this Final 8.

They'll remember The Year The Clock Ran Out and all the odd parallels. The last double-overtime game in the tournament, in 2003, involved Carleton winning on the way to its first championship. Strangely enough, in the NCAA, way back when in 1974, UCLA and John Wooden's seven-year streak ended the same way -- double overtime in a national semi-final. The culprits were the N.C. State Wolfpack; this time, it was a team from Wolfville. Weird.

That UCLA game came in the last year before the NCAA opened up the tournament to at-large teams. (No. 3 Maryland missed the tournament following that classic ACC tournament game vs. N.C. State.) Now the CIS, facing a final between the Nos. 5 and 7 seeds, neither one a conference champion, might be wise to consider the same, as greater minds have suggested.

That's for later. Where would you begin to tell someone about this game? Fortunately for the readership of your truly's newspaper, Chris Stevenson, who's 10,000 times the professional journalist, was there to turn around the game story on deadline for the Sunday paper and will lend perspective for Monday's edition.

What can I say? Well, for starters, there was the crowd which got so loud it actually raised chill bumps. Who would have thought, not so long ago, that you'd hear that, in Ottawa, for basketball? There were runs back and forth. Carleton erased two nine-point deficits. In between, Acadia wiped out an eight-point lead. There was the CIS player of the year, Doornekamp, being only adequate in a game that demanded more. Smart, his coach and uncle, had it right when he pointed out in the post-game scrum that Doornekamp is there to do more than score. At the same time, he split a pair of free throws with 10 seconds left in the second OT and came up short on the final shot. His team, though, didn't get a good look.

How about Kraus' 30-something-foot three at the buzzer in the third quarter? Afterward, I stood on about the spot where he would have been, right on the top 'a' in the Pizza Pizza signage on the court, and wondered how he did it.

There were hotly contested calls and no-calls. There was hint after hint Carleton was going to come through in classic fashion. The Ravens, though, aren't so vain to believe they can just will their way past teams. They came awfully close, though, despite shooting in the 30s -- Acadia shot 58 per cent in the second half -- and being outrebounded. It could have been different if that Kraus shot -- don't call it a heave -- doesn't go in at the end of the third or if a three by Mike Kenny that was straight and true earlier in the quarter hadn't rattled out.

Who knows why it goes that way. Acadia was equal in ability. They had the answers, forced Carleton to play catch-up, then got the stops at the end of regulation and both overtimes when Carleton had the final shot, with a chance to tie or win.

There are a hundred ways you could take this. Some will remember the controversial, albeit correct call that caused Berry to do a double-take and whip off his jacket moments before Acadia won. Up by two, an Acadia putback plus the foul that might have sealed the game with 21.4 seconds left in the second OT was waved off due to to a shot-clock violation after a Saintil's wild hook missed the rim.

As a wise man put it on the drive home, the confusion came that since the shot clock was turned off when a possession began with less than 24 seconds to go: It had gone to black, like the Ravens' hopes.

(Credit for that line goes to Mark Masters from SSN Canada.)


Gerard Hall said...

I'm trying to read as many blogs, articles as I can about last night's game, the one thing I can totally argeed with is that the CIS should go to a 16 team tournament which can still have the final 8 element to it.

After the conference's have their championships, have 4 regional tournaments with 4 teams in each.

Rank each team 1 to 4 - 1 plays 4, 2 plays 3. The winner of each of the first round games make it to the final 8. You lose that first game, you're gone.

Each of the regional winner will then get ranked 1 to 4 and the losers get the 5 to 8 spots. This might not be the best ranking scheme, but just a thought. Spit-balling if you will.

The level of basketball is getting better in Canada and we should reward it. How cool would it be to have a Rockies Champ, A Prairies Champ, A Canadian Shields Champ, A East Cost Champ? Yes, the east coast starts at the maritimes, not Ontario or Quebec.

Tons of logistics to workout. I.e. should there be a top 20 rankings? Top 15? Lots of things to workout. That being said, we have until 2012 to do something about it. Let the debate begin.

Anyway, just sending my thoughts out. It should be a great game today.


Anonymous said...

If a team starts a possession with more than 24 seconds left in a period (as Acadia did in the 2nd OT), why on earth would the shot clock turn off when the game clock gets down to 24 seconds? Acadia still had 2 seconds left in the possession when the shot clock was turned off.

sager said...

The clock turns off when a possession begins with less than 24 seconds left in the quarter.

Acadia got the ball with about 46 seconds left; so it should have shut off at 22.

Andrew Bucholtz said...

Wow, what a game. Personally, I think that's got to be one of the biggest upsets of this century so far in any sport: a wild-card team knocking off the five-time defending champs. It's really been a good time for upsets lately, though, what with Appalachian State, the New York Giants, and even Barnsley knocking off Liverpool and Manchester United. Also, perhaps an undefeated regular season is a curse: it's doomed three teams so far this year alone (New England Patriots, McMaster Marauders men's volleyball, and now Carleton). I think this has to be ultimately good for CIS basketball though: sure, the dynasty got a lot of press coverage, but there wasn't much more that could be said about it, and this tournament has shown the parity and competitive nature of the league to its fullest.

Anonymous said...

Acadia officially was the "wildcard" team but in reality were the #2 seed in the country until they were themselves the victims of a playoff upset in the AUS final.
If seeded #2 instead of #5, Acadia in all likelihood would have faced Carleton in the championship game on Sunday.

Tyler King said...

Parity of this league? Tell that to RMC.

Andrew Bucholtz said...

Haha, I meant parity at the top end. Just about everyone else in the OUA East can compete pretty well. Carleton, Ottawa, Toronto and Queen's all had good to great years, York knocked off Toronto and was always dangerous, and Ryerson's Bakovic brothers had terrific seasons, keeping their games close. The only bad Eastern teams were Laurentian and RMC. The West's top four were also pretty close: Western finished fourth in their division but won the West and made it to the national semifinals, while Windsor won the league and bowed out in the OUA playoffs despite being the only nationally ranked team from the West. There were plenty of other good teams across the country that didn't make nationals, with Calgary and Brandon being notable mentions. As Neate wrote on The CIS Blog a while back, "Brandon, Calgary, Cape Breton, Ottawa, St. Francis Xavier, Toronto and Windsor are each equal to if not better than a couple of tournament teams." To me, that shows pretty good league parity. It's never going to be perfect, though: even in the new "parity-filled" NHL, we still have teams like L.A. and Tampa sucking it up. RMC is just the CIS equivalent of the Kings (except worse, when you're talking basketball or volleyball).

sager said...

There's no comparison between the OUA East now and the OUA East a few years ago. There's four legit teams, plus Ryerson and York have superb individual talent.

Ten years ago, the division was pretty much Ryerson and Laurentian. York, Toronto, Queen's, Carleton and Ottawa, not to step on any toes, often came across as "let the chips fall where they may" programs. They had their moments. I'll stress that was my impression as a casual fan and as an ignorant student journalist who was always furrowing his brow in a vain attempt to understand the situation.

Andrew and Tyler, I'm constantly blown away the consciousness that you guys have about the CIS and its history. I sure as hell didn't have it at 23 years old, let alone age 20 or 21.