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Fire Fizzles Out: Pilots Down Blazers In MCAC Championship Semifinal

Things did not go as planned for CMU on Thursday night, as the 3rd-ranked Blazers slid to a 105-76 defeat at the hands of the Providence Pilots in the 2019-20 MCAC Men's Basketball semifinal and Red River College.

Without the services of rookie forward and team-leading rebounder, Pacifique Jubilate who was sidelined with an ankle injury, head coach Scott Martin was forced to shake up his starting lineup that was coming off an impressive 18-point win against the Pilots less than two weeks ago. The inside absence of Jubilate proved to be an immediate concern as the Pilots took an early lead, out-rebounding CMU most obviously on the offensive glass. Providence point guard Bryant Smith was the early benefactor, driving the lane and grabbing his own rebound thee times before teammate Daniel Kilmartin finished the play to open a 12-6 lead for the Pilots; two of Kilmartin's 10 first half points.

Though the rebounding struggles were evident, CMU found their way back into the quarter with strong perimeter defense. First, Kieran Baydock forced a steal and found Seth McKenzie for a layup and moments later, Kalvin Mendez picked Smith's pocket and lobbed to Baydock on the break to cut the lead to one. After Lucas Mack and Waedon Dueck responded for the Pilots with back to back 3-point plays, Providence was able to grow their lead to 21-14 by the first quarter break.

A constant threat from long-range, McKenzie held a hot hand and kept the Blazers close throughout the first half. The 3rd year guard drained his team-high 4th first half three-ball at 6:23 of the second quarter, cutting the Providence advantage to four, 24-28. He would finish the half with 20 points on 8 for 11 from the field while hitting on 4 of 7 from downtown.

Averaging more than 22 points per outing in his rookie season, Isaiah Cole's touches and opportunities were limited by the Pilots in the opening half, but after the Providence lead ballooned to 12, the 6'4 forward forced his way offensively with two powerful penetrations the ended in scores to give some hope to a half that ended 39-45 in favour of the Pilots. Cole would score 8 and led his team with 7 first half rebounds.

Two Pilots owned the game over the final twenty minutes, taking their team on their backs and closing it out by the time the semifinal had reached the fourth quarter. Jordan Lawson scored 19 second half points and finished with a game-high 30, while Josh Armstrong lit up the Blazers from beyond the arc, shooting 7 of 10 for 27 points. Providence would lead by as many as 32 and with the win, advance to Saturday afternoon's MCAC Men's Basketball Championship against Manitoba's top-ranked Red River Rebels.

McKenzie was selected the Player of the Game for the Blazers after finishing with 26 points.

All is not lost for CMU, who will begin preparations immediately for the NIAC Championship tournament that begins in Bemidji, Minnesota (or Winnipeg) on Friday. Likely to finish 8th, the Blazers will wait until Sunday to find out which undefeated team they will face in the quarterfinals; the 14-0 Sisseton Mustangs or the 13-0 Red River Rebels, who played one less conference game due to weather conditions that cancelled a trip to North Dakota in January.

 

Manitoba Colleges Athletic Conference Northern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association