Men’s basketball team take CCAA bronze

Nathan Mazurkiewicz looks to make a defensive play in the bronze medal game. He picked up two game MVP awards and was named a first team all-star. (Photo by Kirk Saint)

After sending the final game of the Atlantic Colleges Athletic Association championship into overtime, where the Tommies beat Mount Saint Vincent, Corey Delong is bringing home another piece of hardware.

Delong and his teammates won the bronze medal game at the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association Men’s Basketball Championships this past weekend in Truro, N.S, beating the Red Deer College Kings 75-68.

“It feels great actually,” Delong said of the victory. “I’d say [we’re] real successful in terms of how far we’ve come and the level we’re playing at right now.”

It all started for the Tommies at the ACAA Championships. After edging out the University of King’s College 64-59 in the semi-finals, the Tommies advanced to the ACAA title game.

A back and forth game, which saw St. Thomas trailing late, was sent to overtime when Delong hit a game-tying miracle. The Tommies carried the momentum into overtime, winning 70-63 and sending the Tommies to the national championships.

“When we won our league, it was a realization of how good we could actually be,” Delong said.

After dropping the first game of the tournament, the Tommies won two straight games to set up a clash with the Kings for the bronze medal.

Red Deer had entered the tournament as the number eight seed, but after losing their opening match, had strung together two straight wins to get to the bronze medal game.

The first quarter ended with the Tommies holding a one-point lead, 21-20. Delong had 14 points in the first quarter alone.

The Tommies opened up a 10-point lead with one minute to go in the half, but a quick run by the Kings closed the game to four points, 42-38 in favour of St. Thomas.

The Kings came right back out in the third quarter where they left off in the second as they put together a critical 11-0 run to end the third, pushing their lead to eight points as the final quarter began.

A game full of runs continued, as the Tommies got on a 12-2 run midway through the fourth frame. The run was all the Tommies would need as they held off the charging Red Deer College Kings down the stretch, winning 75-68.

Nathan Mazurkiewicz scored on two quick lay-ups which seemed to ignite the Tommies, and they closed the game out on a 21-6 run.

Delong said the team owes a lot of its credit to head coach Dwight Dickinson.

“His coaching is phenomenal and he’s really positive with everyone on the team…If you buy into his system it can all work out,” Delong said.

Delong had 21 points, while Mazurkiewicz finished with 24 points and five assists, and collected player of the game honors for the second traight game.

Mazurkiewicz’s strong tournament performance earned him a place on the tournament’s all-star first team, while Richie Wilkins was named to the tournament all-star second team.

But the Tommies didn’t start the championships the way it ended.

They entered the eight-team tournament as the number six seed, where they faced number three seed College Ahuntsic. A resilient effort fell short and the Tommies were beaten 80-70.

Knowing they were unable to claim gold, they chased the bronze medal. In their next game, they faced an old foe in MSVU.

This time, no overtime was needed.

In a closely-fought game once again, the Tommies managed to edge ahead in the final minute, closing out the victory.

The Tommies played some hard defense down the stretch and Delong said the team’s resilience on the defensive end of the floor contributed to the team’s performance.

“Many of the teams didn’t play D like we did, so we won a lot of games that we might not have been able to win otherwise.”

That victory then put the Tommies up against the University of Northern British Columbia Thunderwolves, who entered the tournament as the number-one seed.

And once again, the Tommies were the underdogs – but it didn’t matter.

The Tommies romped to a 74-62 victory on the back of a strong second half defensive performance. Mazurkiewicz was named player of the game on the back of his 20-point, six-rebound, five-assist game, while rookie Richie Wilkins chipped in with 21 points too.

With the majority of the team returning next season, Delong hopes they can go one step further next season and claim a gold medal.

“We can do better next year…We have a lot of guys coming back so there’s no reason why we shouldn’t.”

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