OTTAWA — In a perfect world after the bronze-medal game the CIS would skip ahead and give Lakehead’s Great Group of Dudes some kind of red badge of valour and give Carleton its just desserts.
That way, both teams leave with their mystique intact. Lakehead could leave Scotiabank Place with its hard-won image for being the toughest out in the country west of the Rideau Canal. The Ravens, who got 46 points from the Scrubbs (Phil 26, Thomas 20) in their 84-69 disassembling of Owen Klassen and Acadia, can collect yet more championship hardware. Of course, the game has to be played and there are no automatics when it's two teams of human beings, but that's how it looks as the endgame appears.
The Ravens, running a four-man tag team at Klassen, just heated up gradually as the game wore on in front of 5,011 at Scotiabank Place. They shot an effective 42 per cent during a rugged first half, 45% in the third quarter and then 79% in the final 10. They went off on a high note and now don't have to worry about Ottawa.
"If Lakehead beats us, they’re going to beat us at our very best," said Carleton coach Dave Smart, whose team held all-Canadian Klassen to 17 points on 3-of-9 shooting and forced Acadia's Tyler Scott into a 3-for-18, 11-point night. "To be very frank, Ottawa might have beat us not at our best just because I think our guys... our guys are nice guys. They would have been really worried about... they would have been trying not necessarily to win a national championship, but trying not to lose it to Ottawa.
"I feel bad for Ottawa because they've been playing so well. But from my perspective, I know my guys will be at least out trying to win. If Lakehead beats us, which they could because they're a good team, it'll be because they beat us on a day we were being aggressive."
"Beating a team that good four times — we're not idiots," Smart added of the all-Ottawa final that went to dust. "We know that's tough. They outplayed us two of three times. The only time we outplayed them was last Saturday [in the OUA Wilson Cup]. It was a three-point game, but we kind of threw it away, we were up 14. Our guys kind of knew they were the favourites going into the game. With Lakehead, these guys have been through getting their heads handed to them by Lakehead [which beat Carleton in the 2011 Wilson Cup and the 2009-10 regular season]."
Essentially, Lakehead is in a tough spot. They're as mentally tough as Carleton, but aren't as efficient. The Thunderwolves, who by Rob's math are 19-point underdogs for Sunday, have made a great run to the final reminiscent of Brock winning it all as the 7 seed in 2008. They came from nine down to beat Ottawa on Saturday, with Joseph Jones scoring nine of his game-high 22 during a euphoric 11-0 run in the final quarter. Friday, they came into the fourth tied with Cape Breton and won by 13.
"Personally, I would have liked to play Ottawa again because they’ve definitely been our toughest challenge," Thomas Scrubb said, who had 20 points on 83 per cent eFG. "We know Lakehead. They’ve got five seasoned guys. They’re going to give everything they have. In terms of intensity, it’s going to be as good as there is."
Acadia never quit, with hometown guard Sean Stoqua getting 20 against a team coached by his former club coach, Smart. But there was a significant difference between how the Axemen rooting section reacted after a basket kept Acadia within a dozen or so, and how their bench was a still life. The players knew it had slipped away earlier, when Phil Scrubb scored eight points during a second-half opening 12-2 run.
There’s no emotion with them," Acadia coach Steve Baur said. "It’s just the same with them. We get wrapped up in the negative and that’s when they capitalize."
"[Phil Scrubb] gets a couple looks and he gets in a rhythm," added Baur. "When he gets in a rhythm he’s tough. He’s tough even when he’s not in a rhythm."
Klassen (17 points, six boards, two blocks, two steals) helped Acadia stay close for 20 minutes. But the wisdom of keeping fifth-year forward Kyle Smendziuk was borne out for Carleton, as the 6-7 veteran led the Klassen tag team during his 14 minutes in the game.
"This was why Kyle was starting," Smart said. "We knew at some point to win a national championship, we were going to have to go through Acadia and Owen, Kyle’s not the greatest scorer. We have Dan [Penner], Kevin [Churchill] and if we move Tommy [Scrubb] to the four, three guys who can score. And we never started ’em because we knew about Owen. He did a great job on Owen. Owen worked his butt off when Kyle was on, but he would say that was the toughest guy he had on him."
Meantime, Carleton's big man, Tyson Hinz, had a 15-point, 11-rebound, four-steal double-double. The stat sheet doesn't show how many second assists the former player of the year had.
"Once we started getting the ball inside to Tyson, everything just opened up," Phil Scrubb said. "He’s a great passer out of the post. That opens up some open shots and some threes."
Meantime, as midnight approaches, the media room is empty except for the elephant over in the corner. What's that he's saying? Carleton beat Lakehead by 21 and 41 points in their two previous matchups? And Clinton Springer-Williams, who along with Thomas Scrubb gives the Ravens a huge size advantage at the wing spots, hadn't joined the Ravens when Lakehead beat Carleton twice in two seasons?
Lakehead could have another surprise. But Acadia could only stay with Carleton for 20 minutes. The elephant is also muttering something that it beggars belief to think Carleton would lose at nationals to an OUA team. That record ninth national title seems close, although it's not the best one just because it's the next one.
"As much as the school will want to make it about the school and the program and people will want to make it about the coach, it's not about the coach, it's about the individuals playing," Smart said. "This is just one for the kids, it's one for the Lakehead kids. I'm looking forward to it. It's a team we have the utmost respect for. Our kids like them a lot. They kicked our butts two years ago in the Ontario final."