This was March at its maddest, people. With all four conferences in playoff action, there were some wild, meaningful games with no shortage of storylines, and the action was top notch. Take a look at some of the craziest games from last night, review some of the other action as well as set up what promises to be another great night tonight.
Saskatchewan 80, Trinity Western 78
Did anyone ever doubt Trinity Western-Saskatchewan was going to be a total barnburner? Jamelle Barrett hit a long floater with 1.8 seconds left so secure a dramatic comeback win and stamp their ticket to Halifax next week.
The Spartans, led by Jacob Doerksen's monster game of 29 points and 12 rebounds, held a 10-point advantage with four minutes left. Not only that, they had held the usually explosive combo of Barrett and Rejean Chabot to fewer points than either of them average for a single game. But somehow the Dogs, led by the double-doubles of championship veterans Michael Lieffers and Nolan Brudehl, clawed their way back to set up a wild final minute.
The funny part is how eerily similar this is to the Huskies' big win over the Spartans in January, and that I said in my preview for this week that the Spartans couldn't get comfortable with a lead. But it looks like that's what happened, and now they'll need a win over Alberta in the consolation final to try and snag the at-large berth for the Final 8.
Alberta 73, UBC 91
I don't think anyone is surprised at how this one turned out. UBC is a team on a mission, trying to make its third straight Championship game appearance, and I don't think they were going to let an upstart Bears team get in their way.
Tonight, they'll need to get by Saskatchewan for the CW title - something they couldn't do last year. Love the storyline here - the battle between UBC's tested veteran squad of Josh Whyte, Nathan Yu, Kamar Burke and Brent Malish against the awesome firepower of Chabot, Barrett and their championship-boasting crew of bigs.
Ottawa 69, Lakehead 71; theScore highlights
The lasting image I will remember for this game is one that stirs the heart of any collegiate sports fan: The Gee-Gees' fifth-year tandem of Nemanja Baletic and Louis Gauthier, having just led their team back from a double-digit halftime deficit only to see their dreams dashed with 0.7 seconds left, both absolutely beside themselves after a heart-wrenching loss.
Baletic streaming tears uncontrollably, consoled by teammates; Gauthier standing with his hands on his head, by himself away from the bench - exhausted, devastated and in total disbelief; Both suddenly left to deal with the cold realization that their five-year varsity careers are over.
It was the typical gut-dropping, emotional moment you see at the end of almost any varsity athlete's career, and yet it was as profound as ever.
It was after both had produced some of the finest performances of their basketball lives.
Lakehead had dominated the first half, and led by 14 early in the second. That's when Baletic caught fire, draining triple after triple, and the 6'9" Gauthier suddenly became an unstoppable force in the paint. The two combined for 32 points, almost entirely in the second half, while Ottawa leading scorer Warren Ward struggled to just 10 points in a very quiet night.
The Thunderwolves, looking disorganized and nervous, were suddenly in the hot seat as the Gee-Gees inched ever closer. With under 30 seconds to go, they fell behind for the first time all game.
Jamie Searle, Lakehead's first team All-Star who hadn't hit a shot from anywhere all night, was then fouled and made two pressure-backed free throws with 17 seconds left.
That's when madness broke loose.
Jacob Gibson-Bascombe made a brutal turnover, and after Searle brought the ball up court, Venzal Russell converted a baseline jumper with less than a second left. A wild celebration broke loose - delayed by a timeout and a last-ditch shot that was never close - with Lakehead going to nationals and Ottawa left to ponder what happened.
It's a question that will haunt Baletic and Gauthier for a long time.
Laurier 76, Carleton 83; theScore highlights
After the Game One thriller, I think more than a few people were expecting a letdown in the nightcap game. After all, Laurier was a 12-10 regular season team, having gotten into the Final Four via an upset of Windsor. Carleton, on the other hand, was, well... Carleton. Undefeated. Dominant. Hungry. This had blowout written all over it.
Kale Harrison and Max Allin had other ideas.
Laurier's 'best 2-ball team in the country' (only if the CIS kicks out Saskatchewan...) duo came out absolutely on fire. Allin, whose quiet night of eight points and five assists does absolutely no justice to how well he handled and distributed the ball against the vicious Raven defence, found his teammates with expert timing and efficiency, helping Harrison, a former CIS Rookie of the Year, to 21 first-half points.
With a huge and loud crowd having travelled to Hamilton and the momentum on their side for most of the game, Laurier really looked for a while like they could pull this one off. They were up 12 in the third, but more surprisingly, the had the Ravens looking flustered and nervous.
And that's one thing that stands out about this game to me the most. For almost the entire first three quarters, Laurier had Carleton on the ropes. They were making everything, picking apart the defence and coming up with all the loose balls. And through it all, Carleton was never, ever out of it.
When they needed to, they scored on back-to-back possessions to keep the deficit small. When they were flustered and couldn't score, they forced turnovers and scored on the fast break.
Make no mistake about it; Laurier outplayed Carleton in this one. But the Ravens simply found ways to keep it close, and when the pressure was on, they executed exactly the way you would expect a 31-0 team to do so.
Phil Scrubb led Carleton with 23 points, and was crucial in helping the Ravens rediscover their offensive touch late. Harrison finished with 26 in the game.
This should be a hell of a final tonight. There's no let-up in Lakehead. The question is who will execute better when it matters most.
Acadia 81, UNB 61
This one was never really close, as Owen Klassen's double-double of 22 points and 11 rebounds helped the Axemen pull away and reach the Semi-final. They'll be in tough against Cape Breton tonight in the AUS Semi-final at 5 PM Eastern.
St. FX 111, Saint Mary's 93
Think Christian Upshaw wanted to prove something in this one? He went off for 43 points, making CIS-leading scorer Joey Haywood's 32 for the Huskies look meagre in comparison. X put up a 33-point fourth quarter to lock this one up. They'll duke it out with Dalhousie tonight with a nationals berth on the line. This one should be good, taking place at 7:15 PM Eastern time.
Laval 67, Concordia 77
It's now official; the Concordia Stingers have gone from worst to first in RSEQ men's basketball. After a 4-12 campaign last year, they're now the top dogs in the QUBL and are headed to Halifax. They earned that title despite shooting 31% in this one, getting to the free throw line 36 times to Laval's 14.
The main ingredient in the Stingers' turnaround has Co-Player of the Year Kyle Desmarais, but it was a full team effort on Friday night as four players scored in double figures, led by Evens Laroche's 19 points.
The other half of the POY equation, Laval's Jérôme Turcotte-Routhier, went for 11 points and nine boards in the loss.