By Troy Langstaff
The chase for three-straight AUS titles and a national championship was in the hands of a veteran Tigers squad this season.
It took the team a couple weeks to find a groove, but after a 3-2 start to the year the team rallied off nine-straight wins to finish first in the conference with a 12-2 record.
Awards night saw five different Tigers win some hardware including head coach Rick Plato who earned his fourth AUS coach of the year award. Samuel Maillet was named the defensive player of the year, while Alex Carson and Keevan Veinot were named AUS first team all-stars. Shamar Burrows was a second team all-star and Nginyu Ngala was named to the all-rookie team. Carson was also named a U SPORTS second team All-Canadian.
At the AUS championship, the Tigers made their quest for another title anything but easy.
The Saturday semifinal versus Memorial was where things got interesting. The Tigers trailed by 16 points with one minute left in the third quarter but outscored the Sea-Hawks 25-13 in the fourth to take the win 87-85.
Sunday’s final versus UPEI also included some fireworks. UPEI led by 15 points at halftime, but Dalhousie would outscore the Panthers by 21 points in the second half to win their third-straight AUS championship by a score of 84-78.
“Although it is very difficult on a coach’s constitution, the history of our AUS playoff performances, and successes for that matter, is not unlike the huge comebacks which we again experienced,” said Plato. “The depth and the commitment to one another, were certainly the keys to those comeback wins.”
Veinot and Carson were both named tournament all-stars with Veinot also claiming championship MVP honours. He averaged 23.3 points per game while shooting 41.3% from the field over three games.
At the U SPORTS Final 8 Championship, the Tigers took on the No. 3 Queen's Gaels in the quarter-finals. It was a very tightly contested game until the fourth quarter where The Tigers struggled to find offence and eventually fell 90-80.
Dalhousie would bounce back with wins over the OUA Champion Brock Badgers and the Canada West Champion Victoria Vikes to finish fifth.
“It was absolutely disappointing to not win a medal… our goal was to win the national championship,” said Plato, “I am hopeful that our loss to Queen’s and the victories over UVIC and Brock will serve as meaningful learning experiences for the boys who are returning next year.”
This year’s graduating players include Veinot (Port Williams, NS), Carson (Lower Sackville, NS), Peter Li (Burnaby, BC), Adam Sellan (Toronto, ON) and Marley Blommers (Chatham, ON).
“It was an absolute privilege to have coached such fine young men, and my greatest sense of satisfaction does not come from the championships they’ve won, but the young men that they have become,” explained Plato.
Regardless of losing key players, the goals for next year remain the same. Plato knows that the path to these goals will always be challenging but believes his team will be competitive enough to win the conference and challenge for a national championship title again.
2021-22 Men's Basketball Award Winners
Alex Carson and Keevan Veinot
|Tigers Assist Award
Tiger of the Year - Sam Maillet