LANGLEY — On Thursday, Sheridan Bruins head coach Jim Flack waxed on about the joy of having his team’s senior leadership become the empowering force that helped carry the OCAA champs to the CCAA’s Final Four here at the Langley Events Centre.
On Friday, his players, most notably fourth-year guard Nick Campbell, helped carry that one step further by leading the Bruins past Charlottetown’s No. 1-seeded Holland Hurricanes and into Saturday’s championship final (7:30 p.m.) against Nanaimo’s PacWest champion Vancouver Island Mariners.
“When you have guys like Nick who step up and hit big shot after big shot, that’s not coaching,” said Flack while referencing Campbell, who hit six treys and finished with a game-high 32 points. “That’s just a kid stepping up and saying ‘We’re not losing.’”
The victory carries the Bruins back to the CCAA final for the second time in three seasons. In 2017, Sheridan lost to Montmorency of Laval in the final.
Friday’s game was a tale of two halves.
The first half featured a 24-point swing as Sheridan built a 16-point lead in the opening quarter but found themselves down by as many as eight to the Hurricanes before halftime.
The second half?
It was as tight as a drum, tied 73-73 heading into the fourth quarter, until Campbell took the reins and showed his team the way.
Trailing 83-82 with 4:57 left in the game, Campbell’s confidence from distance keyed a 13-4 Sheridan run over a span of just 2:02.
Over the surge, Campbell rose up and knocked down three triples, while teammate Kahleek Bakari-Whyte added two off a lay-in and Jemol Edwards knocked down a pair of free throws.
The run put the Bruins ahead 95-87 and it was just enough to hold off the explosive skill and punishing size of the pre-tourney favourite Hurricanes.
“I just shot them with confidence,” said Campbell, a Brampton native, after the game when asked about his last three treys. “I just knew that our team needed a lift, so I am glad that they went down.”
Campbell credited the fact that some of his teammates, including himself, were a part of the team that lost in the 2017 final.
Bakari-Whyte added 30 and Edwards 19 more as the Bruins shot 46 per cent from the field overall and won despite being a negative-20 in the rebounding department.
Holland, third in the last three national tournaments, were led by the 28 points and 11 rebounds of Travis Adams. They also got dual 20-point performances from Martin Campbell and Roosevelt Whyley (13 rebounds), and 13 more points from Jace Colley.
Next up for Sheridan?
Nanaimo’s VIU Islanders have made an impression on Flack this week, just as they have anyone who has watched them manufacture two incredible comeback victories.
“There is a toughness that everybody in the building can see,” began Flack, who lost to VIU head coach Matt Kuzminski in the 2013 national semifinals, the same season VIU won the national title in its first year under its then first-year head coach.
“To see what they have done with the (deficits) they’ve made up the last two nights tells you about their courage, their intestinal fortitude and their coaching,” said the classy Flack.
The Bruins have played in six CCAA national finals but haven’t won it all since 1990.
The team finished second in 2017, 2006, 2001 and 1986, while also placing second in 1985.
Flack has coached the team to the last three finals and quipped: “I might have the record here for most appearances without a gold medal.”
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