Windsor walk-off sinks Bold at the buzzer

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By Julian Bettencourt

The Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) Bold men’s basketball team suffered overtime heartbreak after a thrilling battle with the University of Windsor Lancers, conceding a buzzer-beater in the final second and dropping a 97-95 contest at the Mattamy Athletic Centre (MAC).

“Tough loss, man. It took us a while to get into the game” said fourth-year forward Akeem Clarke. “We tried our best and it wasn’t enough but we have a game tomorrow, so we just have to get locked in for it.”

TMU got out to an early 11-5 lead, highlighted by an impressive fadeaway jumper by Aaron Rhooms, and a three-pointer by Ankit Choudhary converted from almost the half court logo. 

That three-pointer in particular highlighted Choudhary’s impressive 13-point first half, filled with deep threes and contested finishes at the rim. He also contributed six rebounds and six assists on the night.

The battle continued into halftime. Windsor’s star duo of Thomas Kennedy and Najee Brown-Henderson combined for 50 points and gave the Bold plenty of headaches defensively. On Kennedy in particular, Bold head coach David DeAveiro was proud of the way his team limited the big man.

“[Kennedy] had a good night, but he didn’t dominate the game like he’s dominated other games. I thought [Brown-Henderson] was the guy that made the big shots tonight,” he said. “A good player like [Kennedy] punishes you when you make mistakes”.

The half ended on a high note when Clarke pulled off a beautiful spin and finish, in a performance that he described as his best ever in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) conference. 

“Before I got here I didn’t really know how to play basketball, I just had the size,” said Clarke. “Coach [DeAveiro] helped me put all the pieces together and now I’ve played my best game in OUA ever because of him.”

Clarke has seen a minutes increase in the Bold’s last few games, and has faced off against some of the best centres in the league during that stretch.

“I just got to bang with them. It was a good test,” said Clarke. “I learned a lot on defence and I’m ready to go again.”

Clarke finished the game with seven points, five rebounds and numerous blocks—which for some reason weren’t recorded on the stat sheet—in a Bold career-high 18-minute shift.

The third quarter was a different story. The Lancers kicked the second half off on a 16-2 run, and outscored the hosts 25-11. 

Even midway through the fourth quarter, the Bold looked to be out of energy. Windsor seemed to be keeping TMU at bay until third-year guard Mouhamed Ndiaye made a pair of quick catch and shoot threes. A Rhooms steal and dish saw David Walker throw down the hammer on a fantastic breakaway dunk, which had everyone in the MAC on their feet. 

The Bold were up one with only a few seconds remaining. On Windsor’s last play in regulation, Brown-Henderson was fouled on a three-point attempt, sending him to the line to shoot three and potentially seal the game. 

Henderson, a 75 per cent free-throw shooter this season, only converted one of three free throws in part due to the roaring crowd.

Following last weekend’s victory over the Carleton Ravens, DeAveiro challenged TMU’s student body to come out to more games. 

“I’m still thinking this [is] community, I don’t know if it’s the student body or not. If it was thank you, come out to the next one. I wanna pack this place,” said DeAveiro. 

Overtime was back and forth between both teams. For TMU, it was Walker who came alive, scoring 10 points in the five-minute frame. However, it was Brown-Henderson making up for his earlier misses who drained the buzzer-beating shot, shocking the TMU crowd in attendance.

“Some of us are down but some of us are up because we played hard. They got lucky, I feel like” said Walker. “Fatigue will take a little toll tomorrow, but we just gotta keep going hard. This is basketball.”

UP NEXT: The Bold are back at the MAC to take on the Western Mustangs tomorrow, Jan. 28. Tip-off is set for 6:00p.m.

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