Rukus crowd roars as Gaiters claims 2015 RSEQ Men's University Basketball Championship
SHERBROOKE, Que. – Fifth-year senior Majid Naji knocked down a pair of free-throws with just under two seconds remaining to clinch the Bishop’s Gaiters first RSEQ conference championship since 1999. The Gaiters, in front of a capacity crowd 1073 in Mitchell Gymnasium topped the two-time defending champion McGill Redmen 68-63 to claim the title.
The victory propels the Gaiters to the CIS National Championships set to take place at the Mattamy Athletic Centre in Toronto from March 12-15. It also marks the first championship of Rod Gilpin’s career as the men’s head coach.
The crowd at Bishop’s was loud and proud as they grabbed 18-17 and 37-29 leads after the first and second quarter respectively. The Gaiters seemed poised to blow the roof off of the newly renovated facility by pacing themselves to 20-point advantage with 2:24 left in the third frame, but McGill refused to give in and started to chip away at the Gaiters lead.
The Redmen cut the Gaiters advantage to 55-45 after the third stanza. The momentum stayed with the two-time defending champions as they were able to tie the contest at 60 with 2:46 remaining. Jona Bermillo’s (Montreal) three pointer with 2:33 left, had the crowd cheering like it was 1999. It was the shot that put the Gaiters in the lead for good. After a defensive rebound by Naji he was fouled and sent to the charity stripe. His two successful free-throw attempts with just fewer than two seconds remaining had the all Gaiter fans cheering 16 years’ worth of ecstasy. The final buzzer sounded with the Gaiters on top 68-63.
“I think the crowd might have made the difference tonight,” said Gilpin. “We played really well to push the lead to 20 but McGill fought back and made some tough shots. Down the stretch our fans helped carry us over the top. Jona was great and he was great when we needed him.”
The victory punched the Gaiters ticket to the 2015 CIS Championship set for March 12-15 at the Mattamy Athletic Centre in Toronto hosted by Ryerson part of Sportsnet’s Super CIS Championship Weekend. The Gaiters will learn their seeding and first round opponent on Sunday, March 9 at 3 p.m.