With their season on the line, the Thompson Rivers WolfPack came through with a clutch performance against the University of the Fraser Valley men’s basketball team.
On the final night of the Canada West regular season, the WolfPack handed the Cascades just their third defeat of the campaign, grinding out a 76-69 win on Saturday evening at the Envision Athletic Centre.
A loss would have meant the end of the season for TRU – the Mount Royal Cougars had beaten the MacEwan Griffins 87-81 earlier in the evening to improve to 10-10, and they owned the head-to-head tiebreaker vs. the WolfPack.
But Thompson Rivers got 19 points from Brett Rouault and 16 from Reese Pribilsky en route to the result they desperately needed, boosting their record to 11-9 and locking up the third and final Explorer Division playoff berth.
Kevon Parchment paced the Explorer Division champion Cascades (17-3) with 17 points, while fifth-year stars Kadeem Willis (15 points) and Jasper Moedt (14 points, 14 rebounds) both shone on Senior Night.
Moedt secured the conference rebounding title for 2014-15 – he averaged 10.7 boards per game to edge Devin McMurtry of UNBC (10.5) and Craig McLaughlin of UVic (10.0).
“Thompson Rivers really played well,” Cascades head coach Adam Friesen summarized. “They came out hard and battled for their playoff lives, and they beat us. You win some, you lose some.
“Unfortunately our shooting wasn’t at a point that gave us the best chance to win. That made life tougher for us.”
The Cascades were coming off an 83-62 win over the WolfPack on Friday, and the rematch looked to be more of the same in the first quarter as UFV built a 10-point lead.
But TRU hung tough and cut the deficit to 33-29 at the half, and they surged ahead in the third quarter, out-scoring the Cascades 25-16 in the frame.
The WolfPack rebuffed UFV’s comeback effort by heating up from beyond the arc late in the fourth quarter – Josh Wolfram drilled a trio of triples in a two-and-a-half-minute span, and Brett Parker supplied the final dagger with a trey of his own with a minute left in regulation.
The Cascades out-rebounded the WolfPack 46-34, but shot just 30.7 per cent from the field compared to TRU’s robust 47.1 per cent.
Thompson Rivers will host the Winnipeg Wesmen in the first round of the Canada West playoffs – the best-of-three series tips off on Thursday in Kamloops.
The Cascades, meanwhile, are the No. 2 overall seed in Canada West and will enjoy a first-round bye. They host a quarter-final series beginning Feb. 27 against the winner of this week’s Calgary Dinos-Manitoba Bisons first-round clash.
Willis and Moedt were honoured in a pregame ceremony, and Friesen lauded the fifth-year players’ contributions to the program.
“They set the tone, and their leadership is huge,” he said. “With their leadership in the locker room and on the court, they’re a big part of what we do on offence and defence. They’re two of the guys that really make us go.”
Willis said his final regular season home game was a little surreal.
“The ceremony was beautiful – I appreciate everything UFV’s done for me as an athlete, and today was a little emotional, thinking about it,” he said. “It’s a good way to go out.”