With under nine seconds to play and a narrow one-point lead, the Gaels were on the brink of an unprecedented upset over the Ottawa Gee-Gees.
The atmosphere was hectic on Saturday night as the Gaels faced the Gee-Gees in the second round of the OUA playoffs in Ottawa.
“We just tried to stay composed and stay focused,” guard Sukhpreet Singh said.
The men had tipped off with a stagnant start, falling behind early and only getting their first taste of the lead 33 minutes into the game.
In the game’s final moments, the Gee-Gees inbounded the ball at mid-court. With just over a second left on the clock, Mike Lafricain — who scored a game-high 27 points — raced up the floor and scored a layup.
A missed shot at the buzzer cut the Gaels’ season short, and the men fell victim to a gut wrenching 73-72 loss.
In the locker room, reality sank in for the team.
“It was definitely emotional,” Singh said. “Everyone knew how close we were to getting to the Final Four. We did what we needed defensively, but great players make great plays.”
Despite the loss, the Gaels held the Gee-Gees in check. The opposition’s 73 points was their lowest tally on the season.
Since head coach Stephen Barrie’s first season at the helm in 2011 — where the Gaels finished with an abysmal 2-20 record — the men have steadily improved on both sides of the ball.
In five years, the Gaels have gone from having the worst offence in the league to one shot away from the OUA Final Four — their best performance to date under Barrie.
The team finished the season in the top 10 in both points for and against per game.
Singh, who finished third in the OUA with an impressive 22.3 points per game, is returning next fall for his fifth campaign. He said the training in the offseason is rigorous, but imperative for the success of any top team.
“It’s gruelling … it’s absolutely brutal,” he said. “We’re doing something different every day of the week — lifting on some days, cardio on others, scrimmages, running defensive sets … it’s a seven-day grind, but it pays off.”
The men are looking to turn heads next season and fortify their reputation amongst the CIS, Singh said. With only three players graduating, and 10 players on the roster in their third year or younger, the Gaels hope to have an even deeper playoff run.
“Our team next year has a chance to do something really special,” Singh said.
“I hope Queen’s is looking forward to it, because we definitely are.”
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