11,000 people in a 10,000 seat arena is how Ross Quackenbush describes the crowd in the spring of 1978 at the CIAU Men’s basketball championship game between Acadia and Saint Mary’s. “The hype and build up to that game was incredible” Quackenbush remembers.
With Acadia and SMU winning their respective pools, the script could not have been written any better, leading to an all Atlantic showdown for the national title.
In a poignant moment before the game, Father Hennessy of Saint Mary’s brought SMU coach Brian Heaney and Acadia coach Dick Hunt to centre court and raised both their arms in the air to signify that both Atlantic schools were winners in the eyes of local basketball fans. Acadia went out to the early lead but SMU kept it close with SMU eventually taking the lead and never relinquishing it. The cushion was never more than 6-8 points which kept tensions on both benches tight.
Quackenbush is still taken aback by the noise during the game. With the Metro Centre being closely divided between SMU and Acadia fans, the crowd would erupt for every play, basket or foul by either team. “The atmosphere was electric” The game was fast paced and high scoring. Quackenbush recalls the shooting by both teams as being unbelievable with Ron MacFarlane having the game of his life scoring 38 points and being named the MVP.
In the end SMU prevailed 99-91 to win the coveted National Championship in one of the most exciting and memorable men’s university basketball games ever played in Nova Scotia.