Mustangs near playoff berth with win over Warriors

Nyssa Kuwahara/Gazette

There are a thousand theories and philosophies on how to win a basketball game.

But of all of them, by far the easiest method is to simply score, score and score some more like the Western Mustangs did Saturday afternoon when they topped the Waterloo Warriors 94-80 in London.

“We have had to earn every victory that we can get. It’s just been one of those seasons,” Mustangs head coach Brad Campbell said. “But this is probably the first game all year that we just outscored somebody. It’s nice to know we at least got one like that.”

The Mustangs rode the hot hand of Ryan Barbeau to victory as the point guard put up 27 points on 7 of 19 shooting. Meanwhile, Mustang leading scorer Andrew Wedemire, playing limited minutes after getting into foul trouble early on, contributed 18 and a team-high seven rebounds.

With Wedemire on the bench, the team turned to Barbeau to do the majority of the heavy lifting.

“I felt like I had to carry the weight a little bit today,” Barbeau, who played38 minutes, said after the game. “There are days where you have to do that and there are other days where I don’t even have to score. You just do what you have to do.”

Barbeau was coming off of a forgettable performance in the Mustangs loss Wednesday night against McMaster, a game that saw the fourth-year guard miss every shot in 31 minutes of game time.

“I was pretty embarrassed with the way I played Wednesday night so I felt like today I had to come out and be aggressive and knock down some shots,” Barbeau said. “Thankfully they went in today.”

The game was almost a mirror image of the last time these two teams met in January when Waterloo got out to a 23-7 lead in the first quarter and rode that to a 93-72 victory.

This time around, Waterloo again took the reins early, jumping out to an 18-4 lead before the game was even five minutes old.

But an early time out by head coach Brad Campbell helped the Mustangs turn the tide as they rallied to end the quarter on a 12-2 run, pulling themselves back into the game.

After starting the second half down six, the Mustangs began shooting the lights out, scoring 31 points in the third on 9 of 15 shooting, including 13 points from Barbeau who also fought his way to the free throw line eight times in the quarter.

The Warriors tried to rally with 23 points in the fourth quarter but the Mustangs never stopped shooting and drawing fouls, putting the game on ice by hitting 14 of their 15 free throws in the fourth.

“We had a terrible start but we started to settle down as the game went on. We didn’t get rattled,” Campbell said. “We’ve had situations like that this year where things haven’t gone well to start games. It’s important to stay with the game plan and keep the work level up.”

The Mustangs victory has a massive effect on the team’s playoff destiny as now one more Mustangs win will seal a berth in the postseason.

Of course, the Mustangs may not even have to win again to qualify for the playoffs, as single losses by the Warriors and Guelph Gryphons between now and the end of the season would also put the Mustangs into the playoffs.

It’s a comfortable feeling, considering the team has a double-header against the division-leading Lakehead Thunderwolves next weekend to round out their season.

“We’ve put ourselves in a very good position. We’re in really good shape right now,” Campbell said. “But I still don’t think we’ve played our best basketball. […] If we can put some of our better stretches together, we can be very dangerous in the playoffs.”