The Trojans men’s basketball team are provincial champions once again after defeating the Lakeland College Rustlers 88-77 in the gold medal game at Lethbridge College on March 3rd.
First-year guard Charlie Conner was a major factor in the game with 33 points, including a crucial 16 scored in the fourth quarter on his team’s road to victory.
“As soon as the clock hit zero I just blacked out,” said Conner.
“After that I took a sigh of relief and felt pure happiness.”
The Trojans started off the season with an incredible 10-game win streak, but came back down to earth when they lost five of their last seven games heading into the playoffs.
“We played some hard games near the end of the season and knew that we would have to bounce back and find a new identity if we lost,” said Conner.
“We’re resilient so we focused up down the stretch and knew it was our intensity and defense that would get us here.”
SAIT didn’t have the smoothest provincial playoff run, with two of their three games going into overtime.
Although the Trojans finished the regular season with the ACAC’s best record, Conner believes his team did not feel like the number one seed going into the post season.
“I don’t think we really thought of ourselves as number one after losing a couple of guys, but we wanted to show people that were still here and we can still be known as number one at least,” he said.
“We didn’t lose a step after those injuries, and I think playing like underdogs really helped us out.”
Conner was a key player throughout the season for the Trojans this year, stepping up for the team while core players such as leader John Smith Jr. and Nick Molina recovered from injuries.
“Honestly I’m just trying to fill a role, do my best for the team and leave it all out on the court,” said Conner.
“Everybody here is a key factor for the team. Each and every game someone new had to show up and I think we did that in provincials. Everyone showed up and that’s what we needed.”
With the win, SAIT has now won provincials in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1995 and 1996, and second year Trojans guard Dylan Cline could not be happier.
“I’m so proud and excited to be a part of this team,” said Cline.
“We knew we could win it again and we did just that. It feels great to win it two years in a row.”
This is SAIT’s 14th ACAC title, and the Trojans now turn their attention to nationals as they head to the CCAA National Championship hosted by Montmorency College in Laval, Que.
In order to win nationals, the Trojans will have to beat teams they have never played before, but Cline is optimistic about his team’s chances.
“We’ve been watching a lot of film. They play a different kind of game in the other conferences that were not used to, but at the same time, they’re not used to the way we play,” he said.
“If we execute and play the way we need to, we’ll be there.”
The Trojans head out east to Quebec on March 14th in hopes of capturing gold at nationals for the first time since 1986.