A great rivalry lost: Augustana-St. Ambrose to end basketball series


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Originally Posted Online: Dec. 04, 2012, 7:46 pm
Last Updated: Dec. 04, 2012, 9:03 pm
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It will be the end of an era Wednesday night when the final buzzer sounds, ending the St. Ambrose-Augustana men's basketball game at the Carver Center.

The 94th meeting will be the last between the two Quad-City rivals for the foreseeable future. Augustana has opted not to continue the series, citing the costly ramifications when it comes to trying to earn an NCAA Div. III National Tournament at-large bid.

With so many Automatic Qualifiers taking spots in the field, it is tougher earning an at-large bid should the Vikings not win the AQ by winning the CCIW Tournament. By playing the NAIA-affiliated SAU Bees, the Vikings are at a major disadvantage since the NCAA does not recognize games against non-NCAA schools.

According to Augie coach Grey Giovanine, that lack of a 25th recognized game has kept the Vikings from earning an at-large tournament berth twice in the last few years.

It is too bad that this is the final meeting between the two. There are so many positives that have come out of this series that has provided an electric stage so many years for remarkable games and individual efforts.

But it is also totally understandable why the Viking coaches saw the need to end the set. In the big picture, they have to do everything in their power to give the Vikings the best chances of reaching the NCAA Div. III National Tournament. If that comes at the expense of a great December rivalry that goes a long way to getting both teams ready for their respective league wars and potential post-season action, so be it.

From the Augie perspective, it makes sense to end the set.

It is also too bad that it comes to this. The SAU-Augie rivalry has provided so many great moments over the years, despite Augie winning eight of the last 10 and leading the all-time set 59-34.

Last year's game epitomized the battle for QC bragging rights in a game Augie won 83-75 at Lee Lohman Arena. The intrigue began right at the start with SAU senior Chris Donnelly taking the floor when he was expected to be out with a somewhat serious knee injury.

The miraculous recovery and his playing 31 minutes and scoring 18 points, though, was overshadowed by the offensive duel that ensued between Augie's Bryant Voiles and SAU's Nick Frazier. That intrigue really heated up in the second half. Voiles scored 29 of his 38 points in the final 20 minutes, hitting 3s from everywhere on the court. Frazier scored 19 points in the final 12 minutes without missing a shot and finished with 26.

"That was a remarkable second half,'' said Giovanine. "Two guys having unbelievable offensive outputs.''

Games such as that will be missed. The value lost to a technicality that can't be resolved.

"I like anything that you can play people who have quality programs that challenge you as a player or coach,'' said SAU coach Ray Shovlain of the value of this rivalry. "We'll continue to seek out programs like that to play. It's unfortunate that we can't continue to play in the future.''

Shovlain always used this game – win or lose – as a building block to make sure his team continued to improve heading into the Midwest Collegiate Conference season. Giovanine also hates to lose such an intense game in December, but knows it has to be done.

"It's been a good series and usually been good games,'' said Giovanine. "Most years, it has been a hard-fought contest, a kind of game that you want to get ready as you look toward conference play.''

For these two gritty coaches, the loss of a great, competitive game is irritating – especially one that comes with no travel expenses and draws great crowds and a tremendous atmosphere for players at this level.

"I've enjoyed the wins more than the losses,'' joked Giovanine.

On Wednesday night, he is looking for one final `W' in the Quad-City rivalry.

















 



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