The finals countdown: STU basketball hosts ACAA playoffs

Still of the Tommies Basketball Men's Team Final against Holland College, held this past February 19th, 2023. (Submitted: SMR Photography/STU Athletics)

The St. Thomas University men’s and women’s basketball teams both faced off against the Holland College Hurricanes on Feb. 19 in their final home games of the regular season at the Lady Beaverbrook Gym, with the Tommies splitting results. 

STU will host the Atlantic Collegiate Athletic Association (ACAA) finals at the Lady Beaverbrook Gym the weekend of March 3. 

The women’s team snapped a four-game winning streak with a 70-59 loss to the Hurricanes. 

The Tommies played a good game, but it was the second quarter where the Hurricanes built an 11-point lead they would sustain through the second half. 

“Boy, I’d love to have that second quarter back. We just got rattled, I thought our defence was holding us in for a while … They made some tough shots, and we could never really get on a good run,” said Fred Connors, head coach for the Tommies women’s basketball team.

Holland put up 28 points in the second quarter, shooting over 50 per cent from the field. Hurricanes players Lisa Bollander and Sheleese Hoilett combined for 18 points in the quarter. 

Despite the offensive struggles, there were some positives to come from the loss. Tommies centre Céline Sterckel found her shot after missing most of the season due to injury. Sterckel tied her season high coming off the bench with an efficient 12 points. 

The Tommies had one more opportunity to adjust before the finals, as they went on the road to face the number one basketball team in the ACAA, the Mount Allison Mounties. Mount A’s Abby Miller and her 17 points were too much to handle as the Tommies lost 60-41. They’ll look to find their scoring touch come playoffs. 

“In their own gym on their senior’s night … if you don’t love that, then go home. It was a whopper of a challenge, but we know we are in the playoffs. We know we are the four seed,” said Conners.

Guard Vanessa Soffee said her team is excited about the unique opportunity to host the finals at home.

“We’re going to have a good crowd; we’ll have our families here, which will be nice. It’ll be a good atmosphere for us,” she said.

Meanwhile, the men’s team came out victorious with a narrow 97-93 win against the Hurricanes, which put them in first place in the ACAA standings with one regular season game remaining before the finals in March. 

STU had to bring their best play in a back-and-forth game that was decided in the final seconds. 

The home crowd erupted with a minute left to play, when Geoffery Lavoie from the Tommies chased down Jack MacAulay from the Hurricanes for a LeBron-esque block, which he converted into a layup on the other end. 

Holland’s Kyree Thompson made back-to-back three-pointers with less than 40 seconds left to threaten STU’s lead, but clutch free throw shooting from Lavoie and Tyrese Paul sealed the deal for the Tommies. 

The men’s team had some impressive individual performances, including a double-double from Harrison Florean and an impressive 26-point showcase from Tre Campbell.

Campbell made seven three-pointers and shot 57 per cent from the field, setting season highs in three-pointers made and overall points.   

“His shot selection was good today and when it’s good, he makes a lot of shots. He was under control and he didn’t try to force anything,” said men’s head coach John Hickey. 

Hickey was pleased with his team’s ability to win a playoff-like game just before they host the finals. He thinks that having a home court advantage during this time will make things more difficult for opposing teams and easier for STU.

“This is a tough place to play and hopefully we can make it even tougher during playoffs,” said Hickey. 

Campbell is confident to be playing the finals in a comfortable environment but was not looking past their final regular season game against Mount Allison, in which STU won 77-68 on Feb. 25. This was the first time since Nov. 12 that the Tommies limited their opponent to under 70 points. 

Going into playoffs, the first-place men’s team is riding a six-game win streak. The Tommies hope their regular season dominance will propel them to nationals held by the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology March 15-19.