At the ACAA semifinals in Fredericton, the Holland College Hurricanes scored in the dying seconds to advance to the championship.
On Friday night in Montreal, the Hurricanes offered up a second helping.
Leo Morris picked up a monumental offensive rebound after a missed free throw to score, and the Hurricanes held on for a thrilling 87-86 win over the top-seeded Langara Falcons in the semifinals of the CCAA men’s basketball championships.
There were some nervous moments on both sides, as there were 17 lead changes in the second half alone.
However, the Hurricanes picked up the one that mattered the most.
With Holland College down 86-83 with 18 seconds remaining, Alvin Parker’s three-point attempt got wedged between the rim and the backboard, giving the Hurricanes possession.
Mike Hardy converted down low and drew a foul to make it 86-85 with a free throw to come.
Falcons head coach Paul Eberhardt then called consecutive timeouts to try and ice Hardy at the free throw line.
Hardy missed the free throw, but Morris was there to get the rebound and convert to put the Hurricanes up 87-86 with 8.6 seconds to go.
Langara inbounded from half court, but Elliot Mason’s three-point attempt missed at the buzzer, and the Hurricanes erupted in celebration.
Afterward, Hardy said he owed Morris his life.
“I would have been so hard on myself for the next five or six years. I don’t know if there’s a time where I would have ever been over that, so I really do owe him everything,” he said.
The game appeared destined to go to the final buzzer from the opening tipoff, as both teams played very evenly.
The Hurricanes went on a 9-2 run late in the first quarter to go up 23-14, only for Langara to claw back with an 8-0 run of their own that stretched into the start of the second quarter.
Holland College continued to go after the Falcons and maintain their lead, but then CCAA All-Canadian point guard Brody Greig heated up.
He scored nine points in the final five minutes of the first half, including a three-pointer with three seconds left to give Langara their first lead of the game, 41-40 at halftime.
While the three could have been demoralizing, the Hurricanes stuck together as they have all season, Morris said.
“The first thing I tell anyone is that I feel like we need to be a family to pull this thing off. You can ask all the guys, I’ve been preaching family from September, and they say family first. I just tell everyone to stick together, and if we can do that, nobody can beat us.”
Despite the deficit, the Hurricanes knew they could be better as well, Mike Hardy said.
“We realized we didn’t play our best in the first half either. We were still right there, and we had 20 more minutes to go out and execute.”
It certainly didn’t come easily.
The Falcons were able to maintain their lead through three quarters, a 66-64 margin that featured eight lead changes in the quarter.
“Langara’s the number one team in the country for a reason, they’re pretty good. They’re good in all positions from guards straight to the bigs. We knew they were going to go on runs, and we prepared for it,” Morris said.
It set the stage for a wild finish capped off by Morris’s heroics.
As the final buzzer sounded, Mike Hardy collapsed on court overwhelmed by the swing of emotions.
“From missing the free throw to him putting it in to the timeout, and to them missing that final shot … There was such a roller coaster in about a two-minute span where we went from elation to rock bottom to elation again,”
Chase Bowden was named the Hurricanes player of the game with 25 points and 14 rebounds, while Parker stepped up once again, scoring 20 points and adding nine assists while shadowing Greig defensively for most of the night.
However, it was senior player Morris, who finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds in the game, who played the hero.
The Hurricanes, seeded fifth in the tournament as the ACAA champions, will play the Vancouver Island University Mariners at 9:30 p.m. Atlantic time, with the CCAA championship on the line.
For Morris, both Hardy brothers and Randez Simmons, it will be their final games in Hurricane uniforms.
The significance isn’t lost on Morris.
“It’s my last one, I’m going to let it all hang. Coach said don’t leave anything on the court, because we have a long bus ride back to Charlottetown, and we want to be on top,” he said.
Meanwhile, Mike Hardy took a moment to thank the fans in Charlottetown.
“The support has been unreal, and you guys have been pushing us to do this, and we appreciate it.”