The Lakeland Rustlers may have come into the Cora Breakfast and Lunch 2018 ACAC Men's Basketball Championships as underdogs, but no one is looking past them now. The Rustlers (18-8), the third seed from the north division led for nearly the entire game in a 92-82 win over the north division's top seed, the Concordia Thunder (20-6). With the win, the Rustlers move into the ACAC championship game and earn a berth in the CCAA national championship tournament.
The Rustlers surged out to a lead early in the first quarter, as threes from Terrell Murdaugh (fourth year, University Transfer, Saskatoon) and Brandon Isaac (second year, University Transfer, Vernon, B.C.) put Lakeland up by nine just five minutes into the game. Concordia, the top-ranked ACAC team in the CCAA rankings – slotted sixth – coming into the tournament, showed why, storming back to tie it mid-way through the second quarter on a Mike Malin (fifth year, Bachelor of Management, Red Deer) triple and briefly took the lead. But another Isaac three restored Lakeland's lead as they were ahead 40-38 at half.
In the third, the Lloydminster side broke the game open. An 11-2 Lakeland run early in the quarter pushed their lead to eight points, and then an 8-0 run late in the frame extended that lead to 66-57 after three. In the fourth, the Rustlers pushed their lead to 13, but the Thunder wouldn't go quietly. An 11-4 run, closed the gap and then a deep three by Ronald Bacon Jr. (third year, Bachelor of Science, Indianapolis, Ind.) brought Concordia within four with under two minutes to play. But Lakeland would not be rattled and a triple by Isaac with just 30 seconds left sealed the Rustlers victory.
Isaac drained a game-high 23 points as four different Rustlers scored in double digits. Ryan McLaren's (fourth year, Bachelor of Management, Sherwood Park, Alta.) 19 point, 10 rebound double-double led Concordia as the Thunder had five players in double digits.
Lakeland will battle SAIT for the ACAC championship at 7 p.m. on Saturday. Concordia takes on NAIT for the bronze medal at 4:30 p.m.
Players of the game:
Concordia Thunder: #5 Brett Jakubec (15pts, 4ast)
Lakeland Rustlers: #3 Terrell Murdaugh (18pts, 5reb, 6ast)