Split with St. FX not enough as MUN men fail to make post-season

The Memorial men’s basketball team won’t be headed to the playoffs this year. The Sea-Hawks entered the weekend needing to win both games against the St. FX X-Men, but also required the Cape Breton Capers to lose both games in order to grab the final Atlantic University Sport (AUS) post-season berth. The Sea-Hawks could only manage a split (104-84 and 71-87), but Jack MacAulay’s buzzer-beating three in overtime handed the Capers a vital win over Dalhousie, dashing Sea-Hawk hopes before they could even get off the ground.

With the Capers still playing against the Tigers, the Sea-Hawks put their best foot forward in a convincing win in Friday’s game. Balanced scoring and a surprise bench contribution proved to be the winning formula for Peter Benoite’s side, as the last place X-Men looked out of sorts from the opening tip. Vasilije Curcic and Caleb Gould were their usual imposing selves down low, scoring with relative ease and dominating the defensive glass. Curcic and Gould finished with 22-7 and 19-10 respectively, becoming reliable focal points of the attack when their team needed them the most. However, it was Alpha Kisusi who made the biggest impact for the Sea-Hawks, coming off the bench to drop 21 on the unsuspecting opposition. Kisusi was unconscious from three, hitting four of five shots and stretching the floor, even on transitions. Memorial, who led by as many as 30 and profited from frequent successful trips to the line, were never troubled by a St. FX team offering little in the way of competitive defence.

On Saturday, after the heart-breaking news that the team was mathematically eliminated from playoff contention, a deflated Sea-Hawks team took the Field House floor for the final time this season. With Curcic not dressed for the game, Gould became the volume shooter for the Sea-Hawks, going 25-9 but shooting just 10-23 from the field. Gould and Moffatt pulled the curtains closed on a pair of fantastic varsity careers for the Sea-Hawks, with Moffatt adding 12 points and four boards in his last game as a Sea-Hawk. Curcic’s absence was notable in the middle, with Kevin Bercy exploding for a monster game (26 points, 16 rebounds), and guard Devonte Provo dishing out a season high 13 assists in lieu of Curcic’s usual face-up, high-pressure defending. The Memorial bench played sparingly, and were largely ineffective in the meaningless affair. A tired Sea-Hawks team failed to win any quarter in the contest, but left the court to cheers from an appreciative crowd.

Memorial finished the season with a 7-10 record, only good enough for second last in the conference in a season that started with so much promise. Once a highly touted team after a number of victories in the preseason over strong Western Canadian opponents, the team could not find its stride, going on just two win streaks of two games over the course of the season. The consistency that Coach Benoite hoped had finally taken root in the ranks was nowhere to be found again, and the difficult task of rebuilding and retooling one of the AUS’ most threatening front courts now poses the biggest question for the program. Signings and recruitment in one of the most pivotal off-seasons in recent memory will likely determine the trajectory of the team for the next few years, but this season cannot be seen as anything besides an opportunity missed. Players and fans alike can only look forward with hope to next season and trust that the remaining pieces of the squad can build on what they have accomplished to date.