FREDERICTON — An Atlantic Collegiate Athletic Association basketball championship banner is crossing the Confederation Bridge for the first time.
The Holland College men’s basketball Hurricanes withstood a late rally from the host St. Thomas Tommies to capture the first conference basketball championship in the school’s history, beating St. Thomas 70-61 in Sunday’s final in Fredericton.
Chase Bowden had another monster game for Holland College, scoring 16 points and pulling down 15 rebounds to lead the Hurricanes.
Summerside native Steve Hardy, who hit the game-winning three-pointer against Mount St. Vincent on Saturday, came up big once again, scoring 15 points and adding five rebounds to take home player of the game honours.
“We knew it was going to be a tough game. We got off to a good start, but we knew they were going to come back,” said Hardy. “We were just waiting for it, and sure enough, they started hitting big shots. We just didn’t let it get to us.”
Holland College’s victory capped off a fine season, going 20-3 in conference play.
The Hurricanes started the championship game out strong, with Leo Morris scoring the first six points en route to an early 24-13 first quarter lead.
The Tommies responded early in the second quarter, but the Hurricanes bounced back to take a 37-22 halftime lead.
St. Thomas came out firing early in the third quarter, reducing the deficit to single digits. Holland College was able to hit critical shoots when they needed them, including a big three-pointer from Hardy to stretch the lead to 13 midway through the third.
Hardy was happy to start making shots after Saturday’s heroics.
“I knew I would get them going after missing 10 yesterday,” he joked.
Nathan Mazurkiewicz and Jason Daniels put the Tommies on their backs, scoring critical baskets to keep the game within reach.
Mazurkiewicz finished with 20 points and four rebounds to be named player of the game for St. Thomas, who saw their 11-game winning streak dating back to the regular season snapped.
While Holland College never trailed throughout the game, the defending champion Tommies wouldn’t give up the banner without a fight.
In front of a fierce home crowd, St. Thomas brought the game back to within three points with 1:51 to go. It brought back shades of the 2012 final in Charlottetown, when the Tommies came back to force overtime and eventually beat Mount St. Vincent.
Holland College fully expected the pushback from St. Thomas, Hardy said.
“Mazurkiewicz, what can you say about him? Him and Daniels, they’re both great shooters. We knew they were going to come and bring it right to the last buzzer.”
However, the Hurricanes fan base willed Holland College forward, and they responded by hitting eight free throws in the final 90 seconds, including five of Jake Kendrick’s eight points.
Overall, free throws have been a weakness for the Hurricanes, and they only made 16 of 31 in the championship game.
“That’s been our Achilles heel all season, but we made them when it counted,” Hardy said.
The Hurricanes will travel to Sainte Anne de Bellevue, Que., for the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association basketball championships from March 14 to 16.
“It feels good, but the job’s not done,” said Steve Hardy, a Summerside native.
“We’ve got three more games to play, so we’re going to try and win those, too.”
The following is a breakdown of Holland College stats from Sunday’s final at the Atlantic Collegiate Athletic Association.
Player Pts. Reb. Assists
Leo Morris 15 5 0
Alvin Parker 9 4 10
Jake Kendrick 8 0 1
Steve Hardy 15 5 0
Chase Bowden 16 15 1
Mike Hardy 2 6 1
Steve Ethelson 5 1 1
Field goals – 16-for-33 (.485)
Three-point field goals – 3-for-11 (.273)
Free throws – 2-for-7 (.286)
Score by the quarter
1 2 3 4 Final
STU 13 9 18 21 61
HC 24 13 16 17 70