ETOBICOKE – This is what March is all about.
Friday’s quarterfinal contest between the St. Clair Saints and Dawson Blues had a little bit of everything. Both teams made runs on offense to try and pull away. There were key defensive stops. The stars stepped up when their team needed them most. To cap it all off, there was a furious fourth quarter comeback for the Saints while the Blues looked to hold on for dear life.
In the end, the game came down to whoever had the last bounce.
That went to the Saints.
After the Blues got a layup to go with 4.2 seconds to play, the Saints called a timeout to draw an inbounds play. After a Jalen Harmon jumper went long, Chad Vincent-Simon was left unattended under the basket for the putback with 0.4 seconds left on the clock.
Dawson’s last-second effort was well off, and the Saints punched their ticket to the CCAA Semifinals with a thrilling 93-92 win over the Blues.
“Quite honestly, I didn’t even see him and he just popped up and put it in and once it went through, everybody was going nuts,” said St. Clair co-Head Coach Brendon Seguin post-game. “Wild, wild finish and a great play by Chad.”
“This is March Madness, Canadian style.”
Vincent-Simon finished the afternoon with 18 points and nine rebounds. Jesiah Deerr, the OCAA’s Sixth Man of the Year in the regular season, led all St. Clair scorers with 19 points off the bench. Deerr was named Player of the Game for the Saints.
Dawson was led by RSEQ Player of the Year and CCAA All-Canadian Renoldo Robinson. He finished with a game-high 28 points and 16 rebounds to receive Player of the Game honours for the Blues.
Schumel Shepherd had 26 points on 12-of-21 shooting in the loss.
Early on, the offense for the Blues was in rhythm. A three from Christian Payawal at the 6:25 mark gave the Blues an early 12-3 lead. They would pad their lead as the quarter wound down, stretching their advantage to as many as 15 points in the late stages of the frame.
In the second, Dawson continued to hold onto their lead. The Saints managed to cut it down to just two in the final minutes after Terence Williams got a layup to go and Miles Hall added a free throw. The Blues answered right back with a three from Robinson, and Dawson took a seven-point lead into the break, 46-39.
To start the second half, Dawson’s offense once again found its rhythm as they looked to put some separation between themselves and the Saints.
After Darnelle Peddie got a layup to go to bring the Saints back to within two, at 50-48, the Dawson offense started to roll. Over the next five minutes, the Blues went on a 22-4 run to take a 20-point lead with under three minutes left to play.
Just when it looked like Dawson was going to pull away, the Saints came marching right back into the game.
Deerr ended the Blues’ run with a three pointer, Williams followed up with a layup, and the Saints went on a quick 14-2 run of their own to cut the deficit back down to single digits heading into the fourth.
St. Clair’s run would continue into the fourth quarter, as they scored the first 10 points of the frame to fight the entire way back and take a 76-74 lead. The healthy contingent of St. Clair fans in attendance made their presence known, giving the Saints the momentum they needed down the stretch.
The teams traded baskets all throughout the fourth frame, and the final seconds were no different. With the Saints ahead by one thanks to a jumper from David Gomez Jr., the Blues came down the floor and answered right back. Trenton Dias-Maxwell got a jumper of his own to fall with 4.2 seconds left, giving the Blues a 92-91 lead and leading to a St. Clair timeout.
Out of the break, the ball made its way to Harmon near the elbow. His contested jumper went long, but Vincent-Simon was left unattended under the basket by all five Dawson players. VIncent-Simon grabbed the offensive rebound and got the layup to fall with 0.4 seconds left on the clock, sending both the St. Clair bench and fans into a frenzy.
In a shootout game like it was, it was only fitting that the game came down to the final possession. Fortunately for the Saints, they had the last shot and made the most of their opportunity.
The Saints punched their ticket to the CCAA Semifinals with a thrilling 93-92 win over the Blues.
“Coach just said not to chase the scoreboard and just play how we’ve been playing all year long, and that’s what we did,” said Deerr on the halftime message in the locker room. “We just played hard because we knew that our season was on the line.”
“We’ve been through that a few times this year where we thought that we had to get it all back and it ended up hurting us,” added Seguin. “Finally today it clicked, and they did it.”
Deerr was also quick to point out the support of the St. Clair fans in attendance.
“It’s big because we don’t get that win without them and that energy,” added Deerr. “Shoutout to them for coming out, and hopefully we see even more fans out tomorrow.”
With the win, the Saints now head to the CCAA Semifinals on Saturday night. St. Clair will square off against the VIU Mariners. With the loss, Dawson will take on the MSVU Mystics in a Bronze Medal Quarter-final on Saturday afternoon.
- T. Bennett