The Humber men’s basketball team is back in the record books as the Hawks take gold at the CCAA Championships at Mohawk College in Hamilton.
Humber defeated the Vancouver Island University Mariners 68-62 in a defensive showdown on Saturday. It’s the Hawks’ sixth national crown, a Canadian record.
The Hawks opened up their tournament against the Langara Falcons from Vancouver on the afternoon of Thursday, March 19 and started strong, leading from start to finish in a 77-71 victory.
The semi-final matchup was the first game in which Humber was ranked as the underdog since the start of 2015.
The Holland Hurricanes from Charlottetown eliminated the number eight seed Medicine Hat Rattlers, 80-63, in the tournament opener and were championship favourites.
The Hawks ripped through the Hurricanes confidence with an early lead that they never gave up.
In 80 tournament minutes, Humber never trailed.
Even inside the gym of their bitter rivals, Mohawk, Humber had an obvious home field advantage, as the Mariners were over 4,000 km away from home.
The second seeded Vancouver Island University was viewed as the favourite entering the final but their coach, Scott Marr, was not overlooking the on-form Hawks.
“They’re a big team and we’re going to have to keep them off the glass,” Marr said.
As tip off loomed, Humber’s varsity coordinator, James DePoe, had one last thing to say to the Hawks bench: “Where are you right now, you are where you want to be.”
The first quarter saw two contrasting approaches as Humber’s head coach, Shawn Collins, set up patient passing that was matched point-for-point with Mariners star guard Justin King, who was succeeding to play all on his own.
“He’s not passing the ball, nobody else is touching it,” Collins said.
King’s dominance finished with a game high 26 points.
The Mariners forced the physicality with constant pressing and after 20 minutes of play, the game was tied at 34.
The second half intensity was turned up even higher as each team furiously attacked the basket, at times ignoring the 24-second shot clock.
“They’re blitzing the s— out of us, let’s play it early,” coach Collins said during a timeout.
The back and forth action had the game tied with two minutes to go and the crowd uneasy in anticipation when Humber’s captain, Chad Bewley, fouled out of the game.
Humber needed a leader.
Hawks’ rejuvenated Vule Grujic took matters into his own hands as he jumped high to the rim and slammed home a two handed dunk, electrifying the crowd and Grujic was not done.
The centre gained possession again and put away another two-point lay up before being fouled and coolly dropping home both shots from the free throw line.
Six points in one minute sealed the game as the blue-and-gold Hawks stormed the court as National Champions.
Grujic finished with 16 points and was named player of the tournament for his dominant one minute of glory.
“Coach just called my number, I rewarded him by doing what I do best, scoring the ball on the fly,” Grujic said.
Humber could now forget about falling short at the Provincials in the gold medal round two weeks ago as coach Collins and Tyrone Dickson reflected on securing a record sixth national title.
“Honestly it feels better than anything in the world, you can’t buy this, you cannot buy this,” said Dickson.
“I would trade OCAA gold for this in a second although I have five already,” Collins said.