6’8″ Erik Nissen grabbed a last-second airball and laid it in as the buzzer sounded to lift Acadia to a dramatic 75-73 win at Memorial, giving the Axemen a weekend split of their pair of 4 point games in St. John’s. After MUN’s Daniel Gordon tied the game with 20 seconds remaining with a pair of free throws on a controversial call, the Axemen ran the clock down to when 6’0″ Nick DePalma threw up a semi-desperate three from the left wing that did not reach the rim. The alert Nissen, who played the entire afternoon with an emotionally-tinged edge, retrieved the miss and laid it in with his left hand turning away from the basket, touching off a energetic celebration by the Acadia bench who ran after the elated Nissen to half court.
The game had numerous lead changes punctuated by strong play in stretches from several players. Gordon, who led the Seahawks with 20 points, was instrumental in a third-quarter Memorial run that kept them in the game. But the flashy transfer from Fleming College in Peterborough was stripped several times in the fourth quarter, leading to easy scores for the Axemen and had only 3 points in the final frame. Controversy surrounded his final 2 points when, while falling out of bounds with 24 seconds remaining and the shot clock winding down, Gordon threw the ball off a defender and the whistle blew. Very surprisingly, an official from the other side of the floor ran over and called a foul against Acadia when most thought he would decide which team kept the ball ! Gordon made no mistake on both free throws to tie it again, setting up the exciting finish.
Those who still don’t believe how valuable 6’3″ Ben Miller is to the Acadia lineup should watch the second half of today’s game. While Miller, who did not play yesterday and played only sparingly in the first half today returning to the lineup after a shoulder injury sustained in the first game of the Wesmen Classic just after Christmas, finished with only 12 points on 3-9 shooting, he orchestrated virtually every solid Axemen possession – he is by far the highest-IQ and best passer on that team and plays at a level above everyone as far as court awareness, vision and overall skill set. Miller remains an inconsistent shooter and on a championship team would likely play off the ball a bit more but Axemen are a different, much better team with him on the floor.
Miller also makes 6’5″ Kyle Arsenault so much of a better player, allowing the long-range shooter to play to his strengths which is “catch-and-shoot” as opposed to try to create his own shot off the dribble which is not presently a high-quality skill in Arsenault’s game.
This afternoon also displayed the talents of 6’3″ Shaq Smith, who picked Gordon at least twice down the stretch and finished by taking it the other way for momentum-changing lay-ups. Smith also consistently exposed poor Memorial ball “d”, slashing to the rim and knocking down uncontested shots to finish with a game-high 23 points, 11 rebounds, 4 assists and 6 steals, including several from Gordon, a large reason why the CCAA-transfer was charged with 7 turnovers.
The Seahawks continue to be plagued by inconsistent guard play and a lack of an effective perimeter decision maker. Gordon, while an able scorer, gets into situations driving the lane where, when cut off from the rim, he becomes a high-risk-passer. 6’1″ Davion Parnsalu went 1 for 9 from the floor and simply does not have a quality enough handle to put pressure on the “d”. Arguably Memorial’s two best passers are their pair of high-quality post players in 6’6″ Caleb Gould and 6’9″ Vasilije Curcic so MUN typically starts their possessions with an early post touch. Unfortunately teams immediately double team and pack it in to where Seahawks must rely on perimeter shooting and decision-making which simply does not consistently serve them well.
Underrated 6’5″ Noel Moffatt continues to play with a quiet confidence and he was the star offensively down the stretch for Memorial with 12 of his 18 points in the fourth. Gould had a double double with 10 points/17 rebounds and Curcic had 17 and 11 but the two talented posts combined to shoot just 13 for 31 amid constant harassment from multiple defenders inside and out.
One of the more exciting finishes in the AUS this season between two teams that have some way to go before either are regarded as legitimate, top-end CIS teams.