As impossible as it seemed for 13 years, an era of misery has finally ended for the Dalhousie Tigers.
The Tigers captured their first Atlantic University Sport men’s basketball championship since 1996 on Saturday night, entering the Final 6 as the third seed and upsetting the nationally fifth-ranked and No. 1-seeded St. Francis Xavier X-Men 72-60 before a raucous crowd of 5,587 at the Metro Centre.
Built on seven years of hard work and patience from head coach John Campbell, powered by an MVP performance from guard Simon Farine, and sealed by the red-hot shooting of Bedford sophomore Josh Beattie, the Tigers made 120 losses in 160 games from 1999 to 2007 a distant memory.
“This is incredible for Dalhousie basketball,” said Beattie, who went on a third-quarter rampage in the final, nailing five straight three-pointers and scoring 17 points in a 3:20 span.
“We are so pleased to be a part of this new era.”
Campbell’s arrival in 2002 marked the start of the new era, but results weren’t visible until much later. When Campbell recruited Toronto’s Farine as a transfer from NCAA Division 1 Wisconsin-Green Bay in 2006, the Tigers hadn’t won more than five times in a 20-game campaign in seven seasons.
It was hardly a time of optimism at Dal.
“When I first got here, so many frustrations,” said Dal’s longest-serving player, fifth-year forward Germaine Bendegue. “I really didn’t know if we could turn it around.”
Even Campbell wondered: “There have been a lot of moments over the last seven years where I’ve had self-doubt.”
But once Campbell secured a commitment from Farine, a six-foot-two guard, he found recruiting easier, and assembled a hard-working supporting cast that can defend and score.
The Tigers went 8-12 in Farine’s red-shirt campaign. Last season, Farine’s first on the court, they cracked .500 and made the semifinals. This season, the Tigers went 13-7, got hot down the stretch, and put it all together in the end. Farine did it all at the Final 6, averaging 29.6 points, 7.6 rebounds and 6.0 assists, and he dished to his supporting cast — as Beattie will attest — when opponents locked him down.
“As a team, we believed in each other,” Farine said. “We believed we could win and we believed we could win big games. We played hard and it worked out in the end.”
Dal third, X eighth
- The Dalhousie Tigers will face the British Columbia Thunderbirds in the quarter-finals at the Canadian Interuniversity Sport Final 8 men’s basketball
- Dal earned the sixth seed at the Final 8, which is being held at Scotiabank Place in Ottawa. The Thunderbirds grabbed the third seed after going 21-2 in the regular season and losing in the Canada West final to the Calgary Dinos.
- The host Carleton Ravens are No. 1.
- The St. Francis Xavier X-Men, who lost to the Tigers in the AUS final, also earned a trip to nationals and are seeded eighth. They open the Final 8 against Carleton.