This afternoon's Shoveller championship game features two very similar teams that are deep, athletic, love to push up and force the action defensively and have star, All-Canadian type players at the very top. Both teams followed similar paths to the championship, coming from behind in the second half of their games by wearing their opponents down with superior depth and then taking advantage of fatigue to turn the ball over.
After the host Dal Tigers took a 10 point, fourth-quarter lead in their semi-final clash, Concordia created 11 turnovers in 16 possessions during their game-deciding run, using their pressure. Similarily, St. FX was able to make big runs against UPEI's second team and eventually the Panthers wore down in the fourth quarter. Expect both teams to try to impose their will defensively on each other with the team that can best deal with opponent's pressure by making them pay for pressing with quick scores to come out on top.
Shaking off a sluggish effort in the first round vs. uOttawa Gee-Gees, 6'5" Jeremy Dunn came out on fire in the first half of yesterday's X victory, scoring 15 points in the first half and finishing with 25 (I believe). Dunn scored in a variety of ways yesterday, including knocking down a pair of threes at the end of a press break (UPEI tried to press X early), inside in the low blocks and out of half-court sets. Dunn is putting together a strong season worthy of post-season honours. How Dunn works along side 6'7" Bol Kong, who sat out yesterday's victory over UPEI with swelling in his knees but is expected to be ready for this afternoon's final, will be an interesting sideline to today's game and indeed the remainder of X's season. 6'5" Terry Thomas is happy getting his in transition and off the offensive glass while 6'2" Tyrell Vernon is an able and willing table setter with a "pass first" mentality. Dunn and Kong will need to figure out who takes the big shots in which situation, a role thus far that has been Dunn's. 6'0" Will Donkoh has been terrific for X at key moments of both games this week, in the press with deflections and steals, getting to the rim in transition and creating for others. Donkoh was a catalyst in game-turning runs in both the Ottawa and UPEI games, playing the energizing role that guys like Jonathan Bell and Christian "T-Bear" Upshaw provided in season's past.
The Stingers are led by 6'2" Kyle Desmarais, the All-Canadian and member of Canada's World University and Pan-Am games teams, who is a fixture in their full and three-quarter court pressure packages. 6'2" Decee Krah continues to shine as a perimeter shooter, gaining confidence throughout his career and now looks to move into the domain of a First team all-star type. But arguably the underlying key to Concordia's success is the play of 6'3" Evens Laroche, who has extended his game on the perimeter but wreaks havoc defensively and on the offensive glass. 6'0" CCAA Player-of-the-year Jerome Blake comes off the bench, an further indication of the talent available in reserve in this lineup.
Both teams faced semi-final opponents that lacked the comparative depth that both X and Concordia bring to the table. In today's championship game, expect neither team to be worn down with fatigue as the game enters the fourth quarter, making it all the more intriguing.
Game is available on SSN Canada with our very own Bill MacLean doing the play-by-play broadcast.