RRC Mens basketball team win MCAC final

By Neil Noonan

There’s nothing like getting sweet revenge in sports. Whether individually or as a team, it’s a feeling all competitors covet, and the Rebels’ men’s basketball team just got their taste.

The Rebels defeated the Canadian Mennonite University Blazers 88-75 in the MCAC Men’s Basketball Championship on Saturday and reclaimed the top spot in the conference. In last year’s final, the Rebels were upset by their Route 90 rival and had their unprecedented eight-straight championship streak snapped, the longest such in MCAC history.

“I remember what it felt like in the locker room last year when we gave [the streak] up,” said Rebels second-year head coach Scott Kirkpatrick. “There was nothing we could say.”

Rebels head coach Scott Kirkpatrick draws up a play before the start of the fourth quarter. /SUPPLIED by HEIDI MARTENS

Only a few players remained from last season’s roster, but Kirkpatrick says their drive and determination to make it back to the finals propelled the team all season.

Key second-years Steve Williamson, Julien Nery, and Jasdeep Khangura went to Kirkpatrick prior to Saturday’s game to express how important it was to them to bring the championship back to Red River.

“Everything that happened went through the players,” said Kirkpatrick. “They wanted the banner back.”

On the court, Chris Demauleon-Bartolay led the Rebels with a game-high 23 points including five threes and two momentum-shifting plays on the defensive end down the stretch.

Rebels guard Chris Demauleon-Bartolay drives past Blazers’ Jaden Harms in the third quarter for two of his game-high 23 points. /SUPPLIED by HEIDI MARTENS

“We got some redemption,” said Demauleon-Bartolay, the Rebels point guard. “Some of the guys coming back really wanted this one.”

This was Demauleon-Bartolay’s first season with the Rebels after playing three seasons on the University of Winnipeg’s college team. Once he transferred to Red River College in the fall, he didn’t waste any time before making plans to take his first trip to the MCAC finals.

Demauleon-Bartolay sent coach Kirkpatrick a text at the beginning of the season with a list of goals he wanted to achieve. This led to a meeting between the two, which became a regular occurrence to break down how he and the team would reach them.

“That’s the kind of kid Chris is,” said Kirkpatrick. “He finds a way to get things done.”

With Demauleon-Bartolay’s help, the Rebels got it done on Saturday. Williamson added 20 points; big man Mark Ridd had a double-double with 10 points and 16 rebounds; and sixth man Jaired Garing dropped 20 points, seven rebounds, six assists and earned himself finals MVP.

Regardless of the championship, the Rebels are going to have to wait to celebrate as they head below the border this week for the first round of the 2018 NIAC Basketball Tournament. But this time, it’s the Blazers chance for revenge, as they face each other once more.

The Rebels (#3) and Blazers (#6) will tip off tomorrow, Thursday, February 15 at 2:15 pm at host-school Cankdeska Cikana Community College in Fort Torren, North Dakota.