WELLAND, ON: The Humber Hawks faced a huge task, playing the 18-2, 2nd East George Brown Huskies to open the 2018 OCAA Men's Basketball Championship at Niagara College in Welland. In the playoffs, it is not how you won or lose, it is all about winning and moving forward. Give credit to the Humber squad as they came out on top with a 78-73 win and now move on to the semi-finals on Friday night against the West Division champion Redeemer Royals. Redeemer knocked off Lambton 104-89 in the tournament opener on Thursday.
In what was one of the slowest starting games in recent memory, both teams struggled out of the gate. With only four minutes to play in the first quarter, it was Humber that held on to the slimmest lead of 5-4. Interestingly enough, you would think that defence was ruling the court, but it was more about the poor shooting that caused the low number of points recorded by both teams. The Huskies put up consecutive baskets, but a three by Humber's CJ Bennett knotted the game at 10. When the buzzer sounded to end a very sloppy first quarter, the score sat at a paltry 12-10 lead for George Brown. The Hawks shot 18% in the opening set.
AFTER 1: HUMBER 10 VS GEORGE BROWN 12
The key for the Hawks was to get OCAA First team All-Star Kenny Ejim involved, and he finally broke through early by way of one of two shooting at the line. Both squads picked it up defensively, still awaiting for the offences to catch up. It was the Hawks that found their groove midway through the frame, coming from down four at 20-16, to take a nine-point lead at 31-22 with just over a minute to play. Unfortunately, for Humber, they were unable to build on the lead and gave up four to the Huskies as the first half ended. The two teams combined for a mark of 3-20 from beyond the arc, with Humber accounting for all three.
AFTER 2: HUMBER 31 VS GEORGE BROWN 26 (Quarter: Humber 21 – George Brown 14)
On fire. That is what Fowzi Mohamoud was, hitting for back-to-back three's to force a George Brown time-out. Humber used this early momentum to run into a huge 18 point lead at 49-31. Then, they started to turn the ball over, the shooting went cold, and George Brown picked it up. The Hawks scored just two points in the last five minutes of the third quarter and gave up 10. With all the back and forth play, Humber still led by 11 leading into the final frame.
AFTER 3: HUMBER 51 VS GEORGE BROWN 40 (Quarter: Humber 20 – George Brown 14)
Just as they started the third, Humber did much of the same in the fourth, scoring on four of their first five possessions. Kenny Ejim hit two consecutive three's to extend the lead to 61-45. From that point on, it was the Huskies that scratched and clawed their way back. A ten point Hawks lead dwindled under double figures, and then settled in between 6 and 8 much of the rest of the way. As the minutes ran off the clock, it was Humber that tightened a bit and George Brown that played loosely and eventually saw the Humber lead sit at three with seconds to go. CJ Bennett, who was fouled off an inbound with 2 seconds to go, calmly stepped to the line to drain both free throws and salt the game away at 78-73.
FINAL: HUMBER 78 VS GEORGE BROWN 73 (Quarter: Humber 27 – George Brown 33)
A sigh of relief could be heard among the bench and Hawks crowd in attendance, as they were able to overcome a slow start and a couple of pockets of dryness from the offensive side of the ball and ride a few incredible runs to victory.
CJ Bennett, by way of his double-double (21 points, 15 rebounds) was the easy selection as the Humber Player of the Game. Kenny Ejim popped for 15, while De3Quon Cascart also hit for double figures, with 10. George Brown's De-Shaun Williams was outstanding for the Huskies, pouring in 26 points on the way to his team's Player of the Game honour. DJ James was the only other George Brown in double digits, with 13.
BY THE NUMBERS: ROUGH DAY FOR BOTH TEAMS
Humber shot 36.6 % from the field (26-71) and 28 % (7-35) from beyond the arc, and just 63.3 % from the free throw line.
George Brown shot 39.8 % from the field (33-83) and 20 % (4-20) from beyond the arc, and just 33.3 % from the free throw line