Basketball Marauders finish on a winning note

The McMaster men’s basketball team ended the best season in recent memory with a 98-71 victory over the Saint Mary’s Huskies in consolation play at the Canadian Interuniversity Sport Final-8 tournament in Ottawa.

(Photo: McMaster Athletics)

(Photo: McMaster Athletics)

After dreams of a national championship end, it is difficult for teams to get motivated for so-called “consolation” games, but the Marauders wanted to end the year on a positive note and start building the mindset to get back to the nationals next season.

The teams jousted back and forth early in the first quarter on Saturday (March 8) before McMaster started to pull ahead late in the frame. Behind some sharp shooting from Joe Rocca, who had 10 points in the quarter, McMaster grabbed a 28-18 lead after 10 minutes.

Playing without Taylor Black, who did not dress due to an ankle injury that has been ongoing for two weeks, McMaster looked to Nathan McCarthy and Leon Alexander for inside scoring and both rose to the occasion. The Huskies played the Maroon even in the second quarter and the Mac lead stood at 47-37 by intermission. Rocca scored 16 in the first-half, followed by Alexander, who dropped 15.

McMaster opened the third quarter with a flurry, outscoring SMU 16-4 over the first four minutes to build its advantage to 63-41. From that point, it was all Huskies and the Atlantic conference champs used some pressure and perimeter shooting to trim the 22-point deficit down to 11 by the end of the period. McMaster was in front 73-62 with 10 minutes remaining.

Now back within striking distance, the Huskies got the first basket of the fourth quarter to bring the score within single digits at 73-64. McMaster took over from there and dominated the rest of the quarter. Getting offense from multiple options, the Marauders finished the game by outscoring the Huskies 25-7 over the rest of the final quarter for the final margin of victory.

McMaster got a double-double performance from Alexander, who scored 23 and grabbed 10 rebounds. Rocca with 19 and McCarthy with 17 also had strong efforts. The Marauders shot 48% from the floor for the game, with all 12 players in uniform getting some playing time. Saint Mary’s was led by Theon Reefer with 17.

Despite playing without their top rebounder, the Marauders won the battle of the boards 43-36.

Due to television scheduling, the Final-8 organizers dispensed with the traditional consolation final, so the win over the Huskies is the final game for the 2013-14 Marauder squad.

It was a season that saw the team win 27 games while losing 11, finish first in Ontario University Athletics West, capture the OUA bronze medal, and advance to the nationals for the first time since 2006. With only fifth-year senior Nate Pelech graduating, there is much to be excited about as the Marauders look beyond this season.