The Western Mustangs men's basketball team dropped a heartbreaking 89–88 decision in the Ontario University Athletics quarterfinals against the Brock Badgers on Saturday afternoon.
The game was dictated by momentum swings, and Western was unable to lock down a lead in the fourth quarter. Ultimately, a short bank shot with under a minute remaining from Badgers guard Tyler Brown sealed the Mustangs fate.
Head coach Brad Campbell was short in his assessment of the team’s performance.
“Well, [in the] second half we gave up 54 points,” explained Campbell. “We couldn't defensive rebound, and we just haemorrhaged and gave up way too many points.”
A lack of control on the defensive glass was a key trouble spot for the Mustangs all game. In total, the Badgers grabbed 37 boards, including 14 on the offensive side of the floor.
Western’s rebounding was hampered by the loss of one of their best players, Marko Kovac. The fourth-year forward fouled out of the game with just over five minutes remaining.
Despite playing just 25 minutes, the Windsor native racked up 25 points, four rebounds and three steals.
The loss of such a key member of the team was a tough blow for Western, according to teammate Omar Shiddo.
“It's tough because we got out rebounded, and [there were] a couple balls where he could have helped,” said Shiddo. “He could have been one of those guys to get a big shot at the end. Just making big plays; that's what we do as a team, that's what the team needs.”
Shiddo, who led the Mustangs with 30 points, felt that the game score didn’t truly reflect the play of the team.
“We played a great game,” said Shiddo. “We competed. We left everything out on the floor. It's a tough way to go out, man. They got hot at the end, made some tough shots. But they're a veteran team. You know they'll do that. It was just one lucky shot at the end, he wasn't even aiming for the glass. It is what it is."
The third-year forward was correct in his assessment of the game — the Badgers only had control in the final seconds. Despite multiple runs at the opening of the first three quarters, the Mustangs held a 67–61 lead entering the final 10 minutes.
With the loss, Western was officially eliminated from the OUA playoffs.
Fifth-year seniors Jedson Tavernier and Alex Coote played their final game as members of the purple and white on Saturday afternoon.
After the game, Tavernier hadn’t truly wrapped his head around the idea of his university basketball career being over, but he was thankful nonetheless.
“I think it's going to take a bit for me to actually take in [that] it's over,” said Tavernier. “But just thinking right now, it was a great five years. Made friends for life, grew up here, grew up to be the man I am today because of this program. Nothing but love for all of the Mustangs, and I'm excited to be an alumni and support the program for the future.”
“Man, that's sports for you,” said Shiddo. “We got better as a team, we got closer, felt like we had something special within us…. We get this game, you never know what happens after that. But I'm proud of these guys, man. I love these guys.”