Mac cracks the CIS final 8

Scott Hastie
January 1, 1970
This article was published more than 2 years ago.
Est. Reading Time: 3 minutes

It is the most important win in the Amos Connolly era.

In an overtime nail-biter, McMaster carved out a four-point win and booked their ticket to the CIS Final 8. It is the realization of a goal that the team has been building towards for years.

In 2012, Mac made it to the Final Four, but they dropped both games and missed the cut for nationals. The 2013 season came to an abrupt end, after Lakehead clawed back from a twelve-point halftime deficit. Post-game, before the coaches entered, fourth-year guard Scott Laws asked the team to make a promise – to work hard in the offseason to get better, and to not make the mistakes they made. In the win over Windsor, the squad made good on that promise.

That locker room talk seems anecdotal, but it helps paint a larger picture. The return to nationals, after a seven-year absence, is more than just the hard work of the current roster. The former players have had a major impact on the team, showing what it takes to play at this level and how much effort is required to succeed.

“Those guys had a part in this. There are some guys who were very steadying influences from the former coaches tenure until now. Scott Laws and Cam Michaud definitely were two of them,” said Connolly.

Nathan Pelech is the lone fifth-year player for McMaster. He’s spent six years with the program and is the only player who appeared on a roster when Joe Raso was the head coach. Pelech is undoubtedly the leader of this team, even if his minutes are not amongst the team’s highest. He spoke to the importance of the players who came before him, and how the team views them.

“We have a good collective understanding of what has happened in the past and how those guys paved the way for where we are now,” said Pelech.

“Ever since we got to the Wilson Cup, we felt we were close. I guess this year, all the hard work has paid off.”

The word “family” is thrown around the team more often than anything else. At the end of practice, Mac will break their huddle with a united drop of the word.

Four years into Connolly’s head coaching tenure, using “family” to describe the program is more than fitting. The team’s camaraderie is impressive, given the departures of team leaders and turnover throughout the roster. That starts at the top with Connolly, and regardless of the result at the Final 8, the squad is lined up for a solid long-term run. He too acknowledged the legacy of players before his time and their influence at the Wilson Cup games.

“There were a number of guys that have had an investment with this program in the past and were there to support us. They came in the team room, they talked with the guys – the whole thing,” said Connolly. “I’m happy they feel comfortable to be part of our family still.”

Pelech said that the alumni who joined the team in the locker room just wished them good luck and told them to play hard – just simple messages before a game with massive consequences.

Before the Final Four games began, the OUA gave out their annual awards. Amos Connolly walked away with the Coach of the Year award, but he was not keen on celebrating much. He doesn’t think that individual awards in team sports mean much.

But it is tangible proof that the McMaster Marauders basketball program is returning to the form it had at the beginning of the previous decade. Winning a national championship is the only goal that has ever been stated, by coaches and players alike. Hoisting the W.P. McGee Trophy is the one decoration that eludes one of the longest running basketball programs in the country. Should McMaster find themselves winning it all, it will be bigger than a roster of fifteen guys and a handful of coaches. It will be the achievement for the legacy of alumni who have given back to this team well beyond hanging it up.


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