Everything needs to go right to win a national championship.
That didn’t happen this time for the VIU Mariners, but they come back feeling as though they left everything on the court.
Vancouver Island University’s men’s basketball team placed fourth this past weekend at the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association championships in Charlottetown, P.E.I.
“They guys put it all on the line and I think we all can be happy about what we accomplished this season and I felt like this group as a collective team, they really came together,” said Matt Kuzminski, the team’s coach.
VIU won its first game 98-82 against the George Brown Huskies on Thursday, but lost to the eventual tournament champions, the Nomades de Montmorency, by a 95-80 score on Friday to move to the bronze-medal brackets. The Mariners defeated the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology Trojans 81-85 to get to the third-place game, but lost 108-95 to the host Holland Hurricanes to end the tourney.
The bronze-medal game was noteworthy for the performance of VIU star Usama Zaid, who scored 55 points. Zaid, who had been named the CCAA Player of the Year earlier in the week, scored his points in just 31 minutes of floor time.
“It was one of the most impressive individual performances I’ve seen,” said Kuzminski, adding that Zaid was scoring from “everywhere – multiple dribble moves into pull-up threes and it was just some ridiculous shots.”
Zaid had a 42-point, 12-rebound game in the opener and then 38 and 14 against SAIT. He was chosen a tournament first-team all-star.
Other big games came from Kaz Kobayashi, who scored a team-high 26 in the loss to Montmorency; Bryson Cox, who scored 19 against SAIT; Eric D’Andrea, who had 18 versus Montmorency; and Jalen Schlegel, who scored 14 versus George Brown.
Four games in three days was a lot of basketball – Kuzminski said he’s “really against” that kind of schedule – and it became more challenging as the tourney went on as the M’s lost two starters to injury. Schlegel was injured in the second game and Kobayashi suffered a serious injury in the third game.
Kuzminski said through the season and playoffs, the M’s became the closest team that a lot of the guys had ever been part of.
“We went in with the intention of trying to get a medal and trying to get a gold medal …It wasn’t meant to be,” he said. “The more you get to these things, you realize that to win it, everything kind of has to go your way. You need a little bit of luck, too.”