Last gasp falls short

Gaels miss post-season after 87-79 loss to Toronto in final game

Gaels’ leading scorer Greg Faulkner played this season after coming back from shoulder surgery in early 2014.
Gaels’ leading scorer Greg Faulkner played this season after coming back from shoulder surgery in early 2014.
Photo: 
Rookies Sammy Ayisi (13) and Tanner Graham (12) have logged lots of court time ­— 18 minutes per game for Ayisi and 23 minutes for Graham — as veteran teammates missed action due to injury.
Rookies Sammy Ayisi (13) and Tanner Graham (12) have logged lots of court time ­— 18 minutes per game for Ayisi and 23 minutes for Graham — as veteran teammates missed action due to injury.
Photo: 

A slew of injuries prohibited men’s basketball from entering the post-season.

Their loss against the Toronto Varsity Blues (6-13) last Saturday sealed the Gaels’ (5-14) fate. They finished last in the four-team OUA East — one win away from the league’s final playoff spot.

After facing the OUA’s top four teams — and losing to each one — the Gaels met Toronto in a season finale that decided which of the two would move on to the playoffs.

The Gaels were down by six points at the half and three going into the final frame. A jumper from third-year guard Sukhpreet Singh brought the Gaels within one with seven minutes remaining, but Toronto sealed their 87-79 victory with clutch shooting from the free throw line.

“It was a frustrating game for us, obviously to not be able to pull out that win in a game that would’ve gotten us into the playoffs,” said Gaels head coach Stephan Barrie. “[It] was very disappointing.”

Barrie added that the Gaels could have won if they had been able to close the gap more in the final quarter.

The men’s record reflects a team plagued by injuries.

They began the year 0-5 and lost the last five games of the season. Five Gaels missed significant time during the season. Star guard Greg Faulkner underwent shoulder surgery in early 2014 — something that limited his play all year, though he still finished fifth in the OUA with 19.6 points per game.

“I think it was a tough year for us — certainly as tough a year as I’ve had in my coaching career from an injury standpoint,” Barrie said.

Barrie scoured his bench for replacements. Rookie Tanner Graham averaged 23 minutes per game, while fellow first-year guard Sammy Ayisi averaged 18.

Both players appeared in all 19 regular season games, an impressive feat for the young ballers.

The season’s high point may have been Singh’s buzzer beater layup to down the Western Mustangs (12-8) 75-74 on Jan. 31. Singh, who hadn’t played the first half of the season while recovering from surgery, charged end to end and hit the shot with multiple defenders in the lane.

The Gaels suffered several close losses early in the season, including a 98-89 overtime loss to the Brock Badgers, a 54-51 defeat by the Lakehead Thunderwolves and a four-point home loss to the Waterloo Warriors.

“If we have different results there, that last game against U of T may not be the same scenario,” Barrie said. “The OUA right now is so competitive that one game is going to [be] the difference between making the playoffs or finishing with a home playoff game or getting a bye.”

Experiencing this adversity may be beneficial for some of the up-and-coming Gaels, Barrie said. Faulkner is graduating at the end of the year, allowing for younger players to take on a larger role in the offence.

Graham — Queen’s fifth-leading scorer this season — has been pegged as one of the rookies who may eventually take on a key role.

He scored 17 points in the Gaels’ Feb. 14 loss to the OUA’s number one seed, the Ottawa Gee-Gees (18-1).

“I think, especially for our young guys, to maybe learn the hard way is going to help them moving forward,” Barrie said. “For us, it’s about taking those lessons and using them as we move forward.”

When commenting, be considerate and respectful of writers and fellow commenters. Try to stay on topic. Spam and comments that are hateful or discriminatory will be deleted. Our full commenting policy can be read here.