Sunday, March 15, 2009

CIS Corner: Stu's shot

Stu Turnbull rode the biggest 4.9 seconds of his basketball life like a skeleton horse through the gates of hell.

The Carleton Ravens' man of the match and Kingston native made a Will Ferrell reference following his buzzer-beater that vanquished the Western Mustangs, 66-65 last night. That means it is apropos to allude to the Amy Adams speech from Talladega Nights. He started it. He also ended it for Western, putting Carleton into today's championship game vs. the UBC Thunderbirds (4 p.m., The Score, SSN Canada).

Please know that as much as it was a shooter's shot, a fadeaway jumper from 12 feet over Western's Matt Curtis, it was a byproduct of Carleton's flinty Eastern Ontario toughness. The psychological aspect of facing Carleton has put more than one team over the cliff during Dave Smart's decade as their head coach, and Western, like Acadia 364 days earlier, practically had them dead to rights.

It goes against the grain in an age when we're all dollar-store psychologists to figure out what it is about The 613, outside of how well Carleton is coached, that has made it such a fecund ground for tough-as-nails basketball players. One way to look at it is that Carleton, more than any CIS team, including some which have more talent, embody the whole notion that sport has little to do with the concept of a game (thank you, Chuck Klosterman). They will not quit. Something was forged a long time ago, way before Smart arrived at Carleton, when Stu, Aaron Doornekamp and Rob Saunders were learning to play the game, getting schooled sometimes by their older siblings.

With the way the game unfolded, Carleton was certainly given outs. Western is damn good. The officiating, quite frankly, was not national semi-final quality, with the refs calling 49 fouls. Meantime, there were constant harbingers of last season, from foul trouble to a very long defender, Western's 6-foot-10 Colin Laforme, doing a good job vs. Aaron Doornekamp (16 points and eight rebounds, but on 4-of-15 shooting, near the 4-of-23 he had in that Acadia game).

Still, they responded, getting big buckets in the third quarter from Elliot Thompson and Cole Hobin coming off the bench. Despite having four starters limited, Smart managed to keep three in the game for the duration and his team shot 50% across the second 20 minutes after making only 27% in the opening half. That, by the way, makes a genius of Greg Layson, who said a while back over e-mail, "You heard it here first and now again: Western is the best team in the OUA but they will be outcoached by Smart."

On merit, Western could be playing today against UBC. They're tough, talented and well-coached and showed their resolve by twice fighting back from five-point deficits in the fourth quarter, on the wings on some sick three-pointers down the stretch from Alex Brzozowicz and graduating forward Bradley Smith which kept them in the hunt. One's heart can only go out to their point guard and coach, Curtis (who was in his final CIS game) and Ottawa-born Brad Campbell. They did everything right, even had close to textbook defence.

The sun would still come up today no matter what, but simply put, thinking of the people who are believers in how Carleton approaches basketball, the real stunner might have been if Turnbull hadn't had that shot go down. His reaction as it traced through the air was classic; he sort of half-turned toward the bench, as if teammates' reaction would give confirmation, then he just collapsed flat on his back. Personally, from SSN's broadcast position a few feet away, it was pretty hard to remain detached, thinking how as much as Turnbull made that shot for himself to put Carleton into today's final, it was for a lot of people in a very extended basketball family.

Rob Pettapiece, who was clutch in his own right last night, noted this over, when Turnbull was waiting to do an on-court interview with Cabbie Richards from The Score, he actually had to rest against the scorer's table. It was if some energy had gone out of him when he hit that buzzer-beater, as well it should have. Someone who plays for Carleton and comes from Kingston need not be asked to leave it all on the floor, or to do it again in a little more than 16 hours against UBC and Chris Dyck.

Turnbull’s last-second jumper lifts Ravens into final (Wayne Kondro, Canwest News Service)
Ravens dodge Mustang rally; Turnbull hits game-winning shot at buzzer, giving Carleton chance at sixth CIS title in seven years (Shane Ross, Sun Media)
Gee-Gees moving for-Ward (Shane Ross, Sun Media)

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