Elgadi, Badgers end season on a winning note

Ibrahim Ngom goes up for a basket during the second quarter of the USPORTS National Championships consolation final against the Acadia Axemen Sunday, March 11 in Halifax. Brock won the game 94-57. Brock University photo

Brock University press release – Short of winning a national championship, there couldn’t be a much better ending to Dani Elgadi’s storied career with the Brock Badgers than the way it ended Sunday.

Playing in his final game, the fifth-year forward had a double-double as the Badgers blasted the Acadia Axemen 94-57 in the USPORTS National Championship consolation final.

With 23 points and 10 rebounds, Elgadi was taken out of the game midway through the fourth quarter to the cheers and standing ovation of the Brock fans on hand at the Scotiabank Centre in Halifax. He was embraced by head coach Charles Kissi, who has guided Elgadi’s career since he arrived at Brock five years ago, and then hugged by all of his teammates, coaches and support staff.

“I initially thought I would remember all the highlight plays and big moments on the court, but to be honest what I remember are all the little moments I had with my teammates on the bus, team meals and all the things I did with my brothers. That’s what I’m going to cherish the most,” said Elgadi, who moved into second in Brock’s all-time scoring and rebound list this weekend.

Elgadi leaves the team in significantly better shape than he found it — as evidenced by the team’s performance Sunday and throughout the tournament. After a heartbreaking two-point loss to Calgary in the quarter-final Thursday, Brock beat University of New Brunswick in the consolation semifinal Saturday and then dominated Sunday’s final against Acadia.

“The more games we played, the more we settled in and played like we have all year. I’m proud of these guys. Their last game at the nationals was a blast,” Kissi said.

Five years ago, both the coach and Elgadi arrived at Brock and the two have been working toward getting to the USPORTS National Championships. But the coach said the graduating player has met another goal.

“Part of the quest of our program is about developing people, not just basketball players. He came in as a great young man and he’s leaving as an even greater young man,” Kissi said.

Brock only loses Elgadi and forward Trevor Thompson from the roster next year. That leaves a deep lineup that will be led by fourth-year guard Johneil Simpson, a Toronto native who felt slighted by not being named to the OUA All-Star list this year, and used that as motivation in Halifax.

“I feel like I proved a lot of naysayers wrong,” said Simpson, who led all Brock scorers in every game at the Nationals, including a 34-point performance Sunday. “I have to build on that now. I can’t get comfortable. There’s going to be a lot of work to do this summer to get back here, but now we know what it takes.”

Kissi said this weekend proved what Simpson is capable of.

“He and our program just gave people a snapshot of what next year is going to look like,” he said.

One thing the Badgers know they can count on is fan support, and the large group of fans who travelled 23 hours on a bus played a big role in the team’s success this weekend. The fans sat at the end of the court and constantly tricked opposing players into rushing their shots by counting down the clock early.

“They were the sixth man for us on the floor. They did a great job helping us to defend,” Kissi said.

Brock Badgers assistant coach Mike Rao, left, and his son, Acadia Axemen assistant coach Christopher Rao, coached against each other Sunday in the USPORTS National Championship consolation final game in Halifax. Brock University photo

Rao vs. Rao

An interesting side story to Sunday’s game was the matchup of Brock assistant coach Mike Rao going up against his son, Christopher Rao, assistant coach of the Axemen. The two have only coached against each other once before, with Mike also winning that game, but the stakes were significantly higher this time.

“During the game I was okay because we were competing, but in the fourth quarter I looked over and it kind of sunk in. I feel really bad for him,” Mike said. “My career is on the downslope and his is coming up, so I feel terrible. I can’t really celebrate. I’m glad our kids won, but it’s tough for me.”

For his part, Christopher said it meant a lot to be coaching against his dad.

“It was a special moment, especially at nationals,” he said. “I knew it might be a possibility because we were hosting and Brock was having a very good year. I’m happy that it happened, and especially that it was on the final day.”

NOTES: With the win, Brock’s record for the season finishes off at 31-8, matching the record of the national championship-winning 1991-92 team … The officiating in Sunday’s game was less than national calibre with 38 fouls called including a bizarre double foul in the second quarter where one official called an offensive charge against Brock and another called a defensive block against Acadia. Rather than the two calls voiding each other, or the two officials agreeing on something, both calls stood in what coaches and observers at the game said they had never seen before in basketball.



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