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By Andy Hertzog

              BASKETBALL NEWS              
COACH HERTZOG'S REPORT ON THE NATIONALS
March 20, 2011


Dear Alumni & Friends,

It is with the greatest of pleasure that I send you this update. In case you may not have heard, our men’s AAA basketball team captured the CCAA National championship this past week at Durham College in Oshawa. This was our first men’s national championship in basketball since 1987, and it marked the first time ever that our men’s team won both the Provincial and National championships in the same year.
 
We played the first game of the tournament on Thursday afternoon. We came in as the 7th seed, and we played 2nd seeded NAIT, perhaps the most talented team in the nation. We started off strong and took an 11-5 lead, but NAIT then went on an 11-0 run to gain the advantage, and later led 35-26 in the 2nd quarter, but we went on a 10-0 run and closed out the half with a 42-37 lead. NAIT went on a 15-0 run to start  the second half, and led 52-42, but we then went on a 16-5 run of our own to take the lead again at 58-57. We increased our advantage to 70-62 late in the 4th quarter, and then hung on to win 75-73 when NAIT could not connect on a last-second 3-point shot. Our Player of the Game was Ben Millaud, who had 20 points, shooting 7/11 from the field and ¾ from the 3-point line. Jerome Blake had 19 points. Michael Fosu had 8 points and 9 rebounds.
 
Our victory on Thursday earned us a date in the semifinals on Friday against 6th ranked Mount St. Vincent of Nova Scotia, an experienced team making their 6th straight appearance at the National championships.  The Mystics made us play their game at the outset, and took a 13-5 lead. We stormed back with a 16-4 run to take a 21-17 lead,  but our opponents came back with 8 straight points of their own, and we finally entered halftime up 34-33. The game went back and forth in the 3rd quarter, and we entered the final period tied at 49. One thing we knew – we do not lose 4th quarters. This would prove to be no exception. The game was tied at 60, and we then went on a 9-3 run to put the game away, and finally held on for a 70-65 win. Our Player of the Game was Jerome Blake, with 24 points. Ben Millaud had 11 points and 6 rebounds. Seth Amoah had 9 points and 7 boards.
 
That win put us in the gold medal game against 5th ranked Lethbridge College, which looked impressive in knocking off top-ranked VIU of B.C. in the other semifinal. They are a terrific fast break team which averaged more than 92 points per game this season, and they play as hard as anyone we have ever faced, so it was a real challenge for us. We fell behind early once again, 17-9, but narrowed the deficit to 27-25 at the end of the first quarter. We continued having trouble containing their fast break, and we trailed 48-41 at the half. We came out with more energy to start the 3rd quarter and quickly tied the game at 48. The game went back and forth for awhile and we trailed 66-61, but then we went on a 11-0 run to take the lead, and we led 74-70 going into the last period. As I mentioned before, this team does not lose 4th quarters. We gradually built up our lead to 95-83, and then we made most of our foul shots down the stretch to finally win gold 102-85. Our Player of the Game was again Jerome Blake, with 34 points. Lenny Austin had 24 points. Ben Millaud had 11 points, 5 rebounds and 7 steals. Brent Browne was huge for us off the bench with 8 points and 7 boards.
 
Jerome Blake was named tournament MVP (remember he was also MVP of our Provincial championships – let’s just call him “Mr. March”). Lenny Austin was named to the tournament’s 1st all-star team and Ben Millaud was selected for the 2nd all-star team. All were very deserving.
 
It was an incredible performance by our players, particularly in light of the circumstances. We had several players who were quite ill and/or injured, and who would likely not have played if it was the regular season. They all gutted it out, and our head Athletic Therapist, Max Hanna, did his usual magic in getting our guys ready for battle. In fact, he may well have been our most valuable team member at the Nationals. I also want to thank Linda MacPherson for her support and guidance (and for being a great chauffeur).   
 
Not only did our players perform exceptionally well on the court, but they comported themselves at all times with class and dignity, and were tremendous ambassadors for Vanier College. I received so many compliments about them, from other coaches, officials, opposing players and tournament organizers. I cannot even begin to express how proud I am of all of them.
 
Likewise, we all owe a great debt of gratitude to our assistant coaches, Steve White, Dakarai Jarvis and Louis Chevrier, who gave so much of themselves this year and who fulfilled their job descriptions perfectly – to stop me from messing the team up too badly.  
 
I also want to thank Nick Katerinakis, a member of that 1987 national championship team, and a great supporter of our Vanier Athletics program, who came and supported us in Oshawa, along with alum Herbie Kuhn, the voice of the Raptors, who almost out-shouted 50 Lethbridge supporters by himself in the final and who gave the guys a great pep talk prior to our first game.
 
I must also give a very special thank you to Keith Coffin, who is in my mind without a doubt the best ever Vanier men’s basketball coach, who came to our practice last Saturday and gave our players a motivational talk they will never forget, and which we referred to constantly throughout the Nationals. Yes Keith, it was definitely an Abebe Bikila performance by our players (look him up !).  
 
Finally, I want to thank all our alumni & friends once again for their messages of support, which were, frankly, quite overwhelming. It was also great to hear how so many of you viewed the games online all over the world.
 
Congratulations go out to Shelby Eveleigh of our women’s AAA team, who was named an All-Canadian at the CCAA women’s National championships in Niagara, Ontario.
 
Our AA men’s team had their regional playoffs this weekend at Brebeuf College in Montreal. We won our first game against Montmorency, 76-67, before losing our next 2 games, 73-54 to Outaouais, and 78-67 to Ahuntsic. I will provide further details once they become available.    
 
Thanks again for all your support. I will now go sleep for about a week !
 
Andy Hertzog    

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