MONCTON, N.B. — One win away.
Last season, the Crandall Chargers came oh so close to winning the ACAA Championship on the men’s side. They finished regular season play with a record of 14-7, and were looking to continue their strong play down the stretch into the post-season. They would have their hands full from the outset of the playoffs, but the Chargers were ready for whatever teams threw their way.
In their quarter-final game, Crandall took on the hosts of the event, the Dalhousie Agricultural College Rams. In front of a packed house, the Chargers knocked off the host Rams to punch their ticket to the semi-finals, 96-84. Crandall led by as many as 20 points against the Rams, and they never looked back.
From there, the Chargers knocked off the Mount Allison Mounties in the semi-finals, 90-75, setting up a date with the Holland Hurricanes for the ACAA Championship. The Hurricanes cruised past the Chargers to the tune of a 100-65 victory. Holland advanced to the CCAA National Championships, while the Chargers saw their season come to an end.
The Chargers came close to the league title and a spot in the National Championships, but the Hurricanes were simply too much.
Looking ahead to the 2018-19 season, Crandall will be without at least two players from last year’s team, both of whom graduated after their fifth seasons of eligibility. They also had three players who were in their fourth year of eligibility last season, so as many as five players could have graduated. Still, the goal for the Chargers remains the same: win a national championship.
As a team in 2017-18, the Chargers put up points in bunches. Crandall averaged 95.9 points per game over the course of the year, a number that was good for the fourth-highest mark in the country. Holland College led the country with an average of 112.8 points per contest over their 21 regular season league games.
Two of the top four scoring offenses in the country came from the ACAA last season, which tells you a fair bit about just how talented the conference is as a whole.
Crandall shot well from all areas of the floor as a team last season. The Chargers finished the season shooting 44.5% from the floor, 36.3% from three-point range, and 70.3% from the free throw line. They had eight players finish with free throw percentage above the team average, and three of those players topped the 80% mark for the year.
Five players in total averaged double-digit points per game last season, and six players in total averaged at least 8.8 points per outing. The Chargers had balance on the offensive end of the floor, and that was a key factor in the team advancing to the ACAA Championship game back in March.
Leading the way was fifth-year forward Hassan Maidal, a player who improved his offensive numbers in each of his three seasons with the Chargers. In 2017-18, Maidal averaged a team-high 20.4 points per game on 57.5% shooting from the floor in 18 appearances. He was a model of consistency on the offensive end of the floor last season for the Chargers, scoring in double-figures 17 times over the course of the year.
Maidal missed a pair of games to close out the month of January, but he came back and averaged 20.7 points per game over the Chargers’ final six games. He also led the team with 8.8 rebounds per outing.
Alongside Maidal in the front court, Umbori Watson had himself a strong year to close out his collegiate career. Watson finished third on the team in both scoring (15.3 ppg) and rebounding (7.9 rpg), trailing both Maidal and Brandon Fields in each category over 15 games. The pair of Watson and Maidal were a handful up front for ACAA opponents all season long, and their ability to stretch the floor with their shooting made things even harder for opposing defensive units.
In 2018-19, Maidal and Watson will have graduated and moved on, leaving a pair of big holes to fill up front.
The roster for the Chargers in 2018-19 has yet to be uploaded to the team’s website, so there can be a lot of speculation as to who may be back or not. If guard Brandon Fields is back in the mix for his fifth season, the Chargers will have one of the best guards in the country on their roster.
Last season, Fields nearly averaged a triple-double for the year, posting 17.9 points, 8.6 rebounds, and 6.6 assists per contest. Against Dalhousie AC in the ACAA Quarter-finals last season, Fields went for 16 points, 15 rebounds, 15 assists, and seven steals to help guide Crandall to the victory. During the regular season, he posted five double-doubles and a triple-double, this one coming against the St. Thomas Tommies on January 20th.
The likes of Fields, Josh Bokma, and Trey David were all fourth-year players a season ago, so it’s unclear at this point as to whether or not any of them will be back this season. If so, the Chargers will once again be a tough out come the post-season.
On the heels of a 14-7 season that saw them reach the ACAA Championship game, the 2018-19 season presents the same goal for the Crandall Chargers: win a national championship. After coming within a game of returning to the CCAA National Championships, they will be hungry to make up for last year’s defeat and get back to the ACAA title game.
If their fourth year players are back in 2018-19, the Chargers will have a legitimate shot at the league title come March.
– T. Bennett