The 24-game ACAC regular season has its ups and downs. Luckily for the Ooks men’s basketball team, there were more ups than downs this season. After finishing 18-6 and second in the ACAC standings, the Ooks knew their strengths going into the first round of playoffs, but chose to also tackle their biggest weakness – inconsistency.
The Ooks started the tournament off the way they were hoping to against the host Olds College Broncos. After a close first quarter, the second quarter opened up a bit for the Ooks as they led 46-38 heading into the second half. The Ooks came up short in the third but their relentless defence and powerful offence silenced the crowd in the final quarter and sent the Olds College Broncos and their fans home with a 99-81 loss. Of the five Ooks that put up double digit points on the night, Sebastien Cava was named player of the game as he finished with 25 points and 16 rebounds to advance to the semifinals the next day against the Red Deer College Kings.
In the semifinal, the Ooks offence was quite consistent throughout in what was becoming a tight game. Although the Ooks led 47-43 heading into the second half, the Kings were just as good and proved to be dangerous if the Ooks let up defensively or ran dry offensively.
To the third quarter it went as it was evident to see why Jackson Jacob was named on the North All-Conference team this past season. His ability to lift his team in times of urgency was crucial for the Ooks this past season and especially in the game against the Kings. Along with Adrian Curtis, the pair are the Ooks’ strongest and most dangerous players on the court.
With the Ooks only leading by two heading into the final quarter 74-72, every play mattered. Led by Jacob, the Ooks came up with a huge 25-point fourth to pull through 99-94 and advanced to the gold medal game the next day against the Medicine Hat Rattlers.
The stage was set for the final game of the tournament, winner takes gold. The Ooks were down 37-29 at the end of the first half, with the momentum on Medicine Hat’s side. But that quickly shifted in the second half as Jackson Jacob lit up the scoreboard and tied the game at 52 before Adrian Curtis sinked a sick three to reciprocate the Rattler’s last point to tie the game at 55. Jackson Jacob continued to break ankles out on the court as he ran through three Rattlers for the easy layup. The Rattlers led by only one point halfway through the last quarter, 66-65 the score was, as Jacob once again restored the Ooks’ lead.
The final two minutes of the game proved to be critical for both teams as it came right down to the wire. The Rattlers missed six straight free-throws – all of them taken by Pietro de Andrade. Ook Samson Cleare with a chance to put his team up by two at the line, and he did just that, 71-68 with 59 seconds left. De Andrade missed yet another free-throw as the Ooks led by two and had sole possession of the ball to kill the remaining time on the clock as they gathered at centre court lifting up Jackson Jacob in celebration of their gold medal victory to take the ACAC cham-pionship and are also headed to the CCAA Nationals!
The Ooks will head north to Fort McMurray, Alberta on March 16th to 19th for the CCAA Nationals, hosted by Keyano Huskies.
Bridgette Tsang, Sports Editor