There’s a routine that PacWest teams are used to when they visit Vancouver Island. They come over on the ferry, play in Victoria on Friday night at 8 pm, and then travel up to Nanaimo the next day to play at 3 pm, or vice-versa.
For the Quest University Kermodes, it was no different at the provincial championships.
On Thursday night, they were pitted against tournament hosts Camosun College in the 8 pm timeslot. The stands were completely packed, but held a surprisingly even amount of fans from both sides. Camosun had a strong contingent of supporters due to the home court advantage, but Quest had a bus full of students and family make the trek over from Squamish.
The game was an anomaly. Incredibly low scoring plagued both squads but the intensity and emotion was unrivaled.
“I think it was really tough, guys know what’s at stake, but collectively as a group – we’ve never been there before.,” said Quest head coach Sean Shook. “I think Camosun may have been a little tense playing at home. But I thought we had great fan support from our students that made the trip over.”
After the first quarter, Quest led 12-10, but Camosun built a ton of momentum in the second frame, culminating with a halfcourt bomb by forward Prab Parmar to end the half.
In the second half, no team gained a lead greater than four points. Like a tactical boxer, Camosun was winning quarters by knocking down big buckets before the bell – the most memorable being a breakaway two-handed flush by Trevor Scheurmann near the end of the third.
In the fourth, the score remained close as Quest’s point guard Cartiea French-Toney ripped the rock repeatedly, creating easy layups in transition. French-Toney was the focal point of almost all the Camosun crowd heckling, and got more than an earful when one of his steals resulted in him missing a wide open layup on the other end.
“I like to play to the fans. They paid their money to come see a good game – so I’ma give them a show,” said French-Toney.
“As much as I ride Cartiea about being undisciplined on the defensive end, the fact is that he makes plays that some guys just can’t,” said Shook. “He’s an average on-ball defender, but off the ball, he has great anticipation of being on the weak side and getting in passing lanes.”
But Shook said he won’t be quick to forget the missed layup, adding that French Toney won’t hear the end of it “Until the day I never hear from him again – so when one of us is in the grave.”
With Quest ahead 53-50 and just 12 seconds left, Camosun brought the ball down and worked it around to sharpshooting guard Drake Downer for the desperation attempt at the tie. Downer came up short, rattling the front rim, and Quest secured their first playoff win in their young five-year history as a university.
The fans were loud, the atmosphere was electric, and Shook said he doesn’t always know how to keep calm in a game like that.
“I know that sometimes they ride my emotions, and that it gets to them, and that I’ve got to be a better leader sometimes. But it just comes down to the fact that we grind out wins in the fourth quarter.”
The Kermodes were now set to face the Vancouver Island University Mariners, who got a day of rest by virtue of a first-round bye.
“Obviously we’re confident,” said Shook after the win over Camosun. “The last time we played VIU we were up as much as 15 in the mid-to-late fourth quarter at our place, so we’ve gotten over that hump of beating them. We were 0-12 against them until a couple of weeks ago.
“We were talking about our goals, and our short-term goal was getting into the playoffs. Our next goal was getting into a position to get to nationals, and that’s what we have at three o’clock tomorrow.”
Unfortunately for Shook and his team, the desired result wasn’t achieved. VIU outscored Quest in every quarter, and cruised to an 81-51 victory fueled by a slight home court advantage.
“I think we may have been overmatched mentally,” said Shook after the loss. “A lot of the guys on VIU have been role-players for many years and the school just has a culture of winning and high expectations. We’re just not there yet. I think we’ve come a long way, but we’re just not at that spot.”
The weekend was more important for the Kermodes in terms of gaining experience, and testing them in a postseason situation as they look ahead to hosting the CCAA basketball nationals in 2014.
“Fortunately, or unfortunately, we have this third place game that gives us the opportunity to send out seniors out with a W,” said Shook. “And you know I told them, at this point, all we’re preparing for is nationals 2014. Everything we do from tonight on is in preparation for that moment.”
Quest and Douglas tip off in the bronze medal game at 3 pm at Camosun’s Pacific Institute for Sport Excellence.