Electric atmosphere as Brock paints the Meridian red

Nearly 3,200 fans packed the Meridian Centre in downtown St. Catharines Saturday night to celebrate the Brock Badgers men’s and women’s basketball teams in a doubleheader against the Ryerson Rams.

Despite a pair of losses — with the women losing 81-55 to Ryerson and then the men losing in a close 71-62 battle, it was another special night at the Meridian, which was packed with Brock University students, staff, faculty, alumni and members of the wider community.

“It’s a great experience for our guys to play in front of that many people,” said Badgers men’s coach Madhav Trivedi.

Brock President Gervan Fearon welcomed a number of recipients of this year’s Niagara Principal’s Scholarship, which has seen Brock award nearly $600,000 to exceptional Niagara high school students since its inception in 2015.

Also in attendance was Chancellor Shirley Cheechoo and a number of students from her Weengushk Film Institute on Manitoulin Island. During the game, Brock Vice-President Administration Brian Hutchings presented a donation of more than $1,000 to the Brock University Students’ Union Food First Program as a result of student ticket sales to Saturday’s game.

In the women’s game, Brock’s Melissa Tatti led all scorers with 22 points, but it wasn’t enough to knock off the talented Rams. Ryerson led 18-15 after a close first quarter, but opened the gap to 40-25 at the half and never looked back.

Sofia Croce added 10 points and Courtney McPherson scooped up eight rebounds before exiting the game with an eye injury.

“You can’t replicate the game conditions and atmosphere this event provides. It’s great experience for our players,” said women’s head coach Mike Rao. “We are very fortunate to have this opportunity. I love our effort and fight.”

On the men’s side, Brock led 27-11 after the first quarter and 38-22 at halftime, but the Rams posted 49 points in the second half, including outscoring the badgers 26-10 in the fourth quarter to complete the comeback win. The Badgers outrebounded the Rams 42-34.

“What we need to learn from this game is that even when you’re up big in this league anybody can come back,” said Trivedi. “You’ve got to continue to chip away and take care of your floor.”

Johneil Simpson led the Badgers with 19 points and seven defensive rebounds. Cassidy Ryan, Tyler Brown and Kascius Small-Martin each scored 10 points. Brown dished out seven assists and Ryan added seven rebounds. Daniel Cayer collected 10 rebounds. For Ryerson, JV Mukama led the way with 21 points. The Rams shot 41.7 per cent from the field, and Brock hit 38.5 per cent of their shots.

“I was very happy with our guys’ effort tonight,” said Trivedi. “We hit some statistical goals that we wanted to reach.

“Give a lot of credit to Ryerson. They are a championship-level team and they showed it tonight where they stayed poised and chipped away at the lead. That’s one of the best teams in the country and we are right there.”

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