TJ shines at Nationals
but Vikes eliminated by eventual champs
THE MARTLET, Thursday, March 21, 1991
by Guy MacPherson
HALIFAX – The drought continues. It’s been five long years since the UVic men’s basketball team won the national championships. And with the graduation of all-Canadian forward Spencer McKay, it might be another five years before the Vikes win again.
But not if Tom Johnson has his say in the matter.
The Vikings lost in the semifinals of the CIAU tournament last weekend, but Johnson put on quite a show along the way.
UVic defeated the Concordia Stingers in overtime 87-80 before bowing out to the eventual champs, Western Ontario Mustangs, 87-77.
Johnson, a fourth year guard, almost single-handedly won the quarter-final game. The Vikes scored the first 10 points of the second half to take a 13-point lead. Concordia didn’t get its first points of the half for almost four minutes.
But the Stingers’ tough interior defense and diamond-and-one defense against Johnson brought them back into the lead. Concordia led by six with two minutes left.
It seemed over for the Vikes until Johnson went to work. He hit three long-range 3-pointers with defenders draped all over him. His game-tying shot was at the buzzer amongst three Concordia players.
That shot took the sting out of the defending champs. UVic outscored them 11-4 in the extra period. TJ finished with 30 points, including six 3-pointers, and the respect of the more than 5000 in attendance at the Halifax Metro Centre. David McIntosh had 19 points and nine assists, while David Lescheid hit for 14. Spencer McKay scored nine points and grabbed 10 boards.
“We got big Spencer in foul trouble in the first half,” said Concordia coach John Dore. “Which is exactly what we wanted to do. But we weren’t counting on Mr. Johnson to nail the threes the way he did.”
“I’ve always been in the situation where I usually take the last-second shot,” said Johnson. “I don’t feel that much pressure because I know no one else on our team is going to shoot it. So I guess I’m brave enough to take it.”
It was coach Guy Vetrie’s game plan to get the ball inside, but no Viking was hitting in the paint. So it was up to Johnson to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
“We were missing a lot of easy shots. That was the only thing that we were doing poorly down the stretch,” said Vetrie. “At one time we were 0-for-8 from about six feet. I think it was a combination of Stinger defense and our lack of concentration inside. But thanks to TJ tonight, we’re moving on.”
And thanks to TJ, the semifinal against Western was just as exciting. But the Vikings had used up their nine lives the night before.
After his first performance, Johnson got the fans clearly behind UVic for Saturday’s contest. The game didn’t have to be as exciting, but the rest of the team could not buy a basket leaving the way for Johnson to show why he should have been named to the all-Canadian team.
After trailing by six at the half, the Vikes were down by 11 with 4:16 left in the game. But amazingly enough Johnson hit three straight long-range bombs, bringing the Vikes to within two with two minutes remaining. The comeback, though, took its toll as UVic was outscored 10-2 to end the game and the season.
Johnson finished with 38 points, including six more 3-pointers. McKay had 17.
“He’s a phenomenal shooter,” said Mustang coach Craig Boydell about Johnson. “I hear them talking about him being a streak shooter. We don’t see him that much, but I’m not sure what that means since I haven’t seen the other side of the streak.”
“The Vikings are a very disappointed group right now,” said Vetrie. “They have nothing to be ashamed of. They played hard and were right in it to the end. We had a problem last night of finishing off inside.
“We had a similar problem tonight. Our defense kept us in the game but sooner or later, if you’re not finishing off inside, it catches up to you. We got saved last night and we almost got saved tonight, but the percentages are against you.”
For his heroics, Tom Johnson was named to the tournament all-star team.
For two games, Johnson shot 60.4 per cent from the floor. The rest of the Vikings shot 35.2 per cent.
“It’s nice, but I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, that I feel that team success will bring individual notoriety. Because we weren’t successful, I feel very bad. I would trade my individual award in for the team to have won. But I can’t deny that it is nice to receive the award.” [said Johnson]