LONDON, Ont. — The look of amazement, relief and disbelief on Western Coach Brad Campbell’s face said it all.
Fifth-year guard Nikola Farkic hit the game-winning three point shot in overtime to lift the Western Mustangs to a 104-103 victory over the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks in the OUA Wilson Cup semi-finals on Wednesday night.
The victory not only booked them a ticket to the Wilson Cup final on Saturday, but also into the U Sports Final 8 tournament in Ottawa.
“That was epic. Just when you thought we were dead to go to overtime with a massive three, and then the shot-making back and forth—the level of play from both teams offensively was unbelievable,” said Campbell, afterwards. “Speechless. It was amazing. Our guys just kept fighting and it was wild.”
The Mustangs (16-6) had just come off an 88-82 win against the Laurentian Voyageurs in the quarter-final and were looking to finally make their breakthrough into the U Sports Final 8.
OUA second-team all-star Julian Walker had 26 points and nine rebounds, Nikola Farkic had 24 points and 11 assists, and Omar Shiddo had 21 points and four assists.
The Golden Hawks (11-11) came off two big wins against the Queen’s Gaels and Lakehead, looking to breakthrough after losing to the Ryerson Rams in last year’s semifinal.
Ali Sow led the way with 41 points and seven rebounds, while Kemel Archer came up big with 24 points and 11 rebounds, and Ntore Habimana had 12 points, eight rebounds, and six assists.
Western started out the game on a high note with a 12-5 run, but as the story of the game came to be, there was a lot of back and forth that followed. Western closed the quarter with a 28-22 lead.
In the second quarter, Western slowly pushed their lead to 10, going up 43-33. That did not last long for them though, as Laurier went on a 14-4 run in the final six minutes of the quarter and went into halftime tied at 47.
The favour was returned to open the third, as the Mustangs opened with an 11-1 run. Continuing the theme of the night though, Laurier came crawling back and cut a 10-point lead down to two. Going into the fourth, Western was up 74-72.
There were seven lead changes in the final quarter but towards the end, Western became the team who had to crawl back into it. After a big three from Nahshon Hurst to make it 91-88 for Laurier, Western tied the game on three free throws with 40 seconds remaining.
Tied at 91, Sow made two free throws to make it 93-91 with 20 seconds left. After a missed jump shot from Shiddo, Sow got the rebound and got fouled.
With a chance to put the game out of reach, he missed the first, and made the second. The game was wide open, once again.
Down 94-91, and the Mustangs closer Shiddo having fouled out, Jenkins got the ball on the left wing, pump faked to get his defender in the air, and hit a huge three with two seconds left to send it to overtime.
“During the free throws [Sow’s last two free throw attempts], I went up to Nik [Farkic] and was like ‘get me the ball and I’ll make it,” said Jenkins. “The defender jumped on the pump fake and I was able to get space, hit the shot, and I’m very thankful it went in.”
In overtime, with the crowd standing along the railings of Alumni Hall at Western University, both teams delivered a show. After a back and forth that saw another handful of lead changes, Sow brought the fireworks and dramatics from the fourth quarter into overtime.
With 15 seconds left, Sow hit a straight away three to put Laurier up 103-101. After an Archer block on Jenkins, what happened next blew the roof off Alumni Hall. Farkic’s deep three with 1.9 seconds left, left the arena in a frenzy. He scored Western’s final five points to close the game out.
“As soon as it left my hands, I knew it was going in,” said Farkic. “I did, I felt it.”