Sunday, 16 March 2008

Storybook ending for Badgers Seniors

The scene near the Brock bench moments after the final horn of the 2008 CIS championship game was touching. Badger guard Scott Murray, after a very brief initial celebration with his teammates, sprinted directly into the arms of his father, Brock coach Ken Murray. The enveloping embrace lasted for almost a minute and evoked tears from more than just the father and son combination that had waited a lifetime to share a special championship moment. Son Scott, maligned by some earlier in his career as a player only the roster because of who his father was, proved the critics wrong time and time again throughout his five year career culminating in a solid effort in this afternoon's championship game that included a pair of threes and some key rebounds down the stretch of Brock's 64-61 victory over Acadia before a crowd of 8,251 at Scotiabank Place in Ottawa. The elder Murray, who now has guided the Badgers to two National championships wiped away the tears after the long hug and was later still beaming that he could share such a special moment with his boy, "What can you say? This is the way we dreamed it would end and I'm as happy for all the guys as I am for Scott. But winning a championship with my son is something we both will remember for life." 6'7" Owen White, who at the mid-point of last season was nothing more than an after thought as an offensive threat in the post, continued his meteoric rise as a CIS star by garnering the MVP of the tournament including a 12 point, 9 rebound effort in today's final after getting a career high 25 points and 14 rebounds in the semi-final win against Western. Brock assistant coach Steve Atkin, who rarely shows considerable emotion, was also beaming, obviously very proud of his latest student as the 6'10" former National team player from the 80's soaked in the celebration. White is the latest in a string of post players which include 6'8" former Moser Award winner Kevin Stienstra who came to St. Catharines as relatively unheralded players and, under the daily tutelage of Atkin, an accomplished post player in his day at Simon Fraser, Waterloo and the National team, rapidly progressed to become top flight CIS post players. Assistant coach Brian Mulligan, who was also with the Badgers when they last won the Nationals in 1992, spoke proudly of guards which he handled every day in practice and Bill Rootes, another assistant was also a proud papa as his All-Canadian son, Brad Rootes, the face of the Badgers for five years was finally rewarded with a National championship. As always, Rootes was the underlying key to Brock all weekend with 8 points, 8 rebounds and 6 assists today. 6'2" Rohan Steen came running up to Atkin for a full embrace and an ecstatic "Thank you, coach" as Brock completed the unlikely run through the tournament after coming in as a #7 seed. Another senior playing his last game as a Badger 6'7" Dusty Bianchin knocked down the two final baskets including a 17 foot jumper on a pass from Rootes with 1:45 remaining to put Brock ahead for good. For the four graduating seniors from the "Region" (Rootes, Murray, Bianchin and Steen) who have played together since grade school, it was a fitting ending to their careers. After playing with the weight of possibly ending their careers at home in the OUA playoffs, Brock's solid second half in the OUA Bronze medal win over Ottawa lifted the pressure of making the Nationals and the last 3 days Brock played with much more confidence, fluidity and aggressiveness. Another Region native, 6'3" Mike Kemp of Niagara Falls, a tournament all-star, was at his very best in the deciding game, scoring 23 points with a 6 for 13 effort from downtown with two of the threes coming in the final 6 minutes of play. The first 3 brought the Badgers back to within one after giving up the first 5 points of the fourth quarter. The second, with a hand in his face, tied the game at 60 with just 2:20 to play, setting up Bianchin's game-deciding shot. Congratulations to the boys from the Region on a tremendous effort over the three days of action in Ottawa and enjoy the celebration.

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