Brandon Burke won’t soon forget his first game in a UFV Cascades jersey.
Burke supplied the late-game heroics as the Cascades men’s basketball team won their preseason opener 92-90 over the Seattle Mountaineers on Saturday evening at the Envision Athletic Centre.
With 1.4 seconds left in the fourth quarter and the two teams deadlocked at 90-90, Marcus Morgan inbounded the ball from the left baseline to Burke, who turned and pump-faked with a Seattle defender blanketing him. The defender didn’t bite, so Burke hoisted a tough left-handed leaner from just inside the three-point arc.
The ball splashed through as the buzzer sounded, and Burke’s new teammates rushed onto the court to mob him.
“Honestly, it was gratifying,” said Burke, a Toronto product who transferred to UFV from Ottawa’s Algonquin College. “The coaching staff and all my teammates made me feel very welcome. They gave me the ball because they trust me, and I just had to produce. Make or miss, they still would have been behind me, so that’s the good thing about it.”
The Cascades got out to a solid start on Saturday, building a 25-17 lead at the end of the first quarter. But the Mountaineers, a men’s club team from Seattle, rallied in the second quarter to take a 42-41 advantage into the break.
The visitors nursed a modest lead for much of the second half, and were up 88-82 with three minutes left in the fourth quarter. But the Cascades responded with an 8-0 run, capped by a tough jump shot in the lane – plus the foul – by Antonio Jhuty. He hit the ensuing free throw to put UFV ahead 90-88.
A Jason Waltman layup tied it up, setting the stage for Burke in the dying seconds.
“The play was designed for Nate Brown, our big man, and he had a terrific game,” Burke related. “All the attention was focused on him, so I just got a screen and went towards the ball. I didn’t have time to put it on the floor, and I tried to get him in the air and get a foul, but he didn’t jump. I went back up and shot it, and luckily it went in. It’s a good feeling, even though it’s exhibition.”
Cascades head coach Adam Friesen lauded Burke’s clutch shot, and said the game represented a solid start for his squad.
“It’s probably the best-case scenario,” he said. “We got a game in, a lot of guys got to play, and it can’t hurt team camaraderie when you have a game like that.
“We’ve got to work on everything. But I like the fact that we’re coming together as a team. It’s a good first step. Going into next weekend, hopefully we can just keep building and growing and coming together.”
Friesen elected to rest backcourt stars Kevon Parchment and Manny Dulay for the entire second half in favour of giving others a chance to see what they could do. Burke (12 points on 5-for-8 shooting from the field) and Jhuty (12 points, 5-for-6), among others, took advantage of the extended audition.
Fourth-year power forward Brown had a monster game for the Cascades, racking up 26 points, 12 rebounds and six assists. Veteran guard Vijay Dhillon and centre Matt Cooley, a transfer from Kwantlen Polytechnic University, also scored in double figures with 11 points each.
Rashaad Powell (24 points, eight rebounds) and Marcus Goode (22 points, four blocks) set the pace for the Mountaineers.
The UFV men’s hoopsters begin their exhibition schedule in earnest next weekend at the Guy Vetrie Memorial Tournament at the University of Victoria, where they’ll face the Saskatchewan Huskies (Friday, Oct. 2, 6 p.m.), the Carleton Ravens (Saturday, Oct. 3, 3 p.m.) and the host Victoria Vikes (Sunday, Oct. 4, 2 p.m.).
UVic and Saskatchewan finished first and second, respectively, in Canada West last season, while the Ravens are Canada’s reigning university basketball dynasty. The Ottawa program has won the CIS national championship 11 of the past 13 years.
The Cascades went 17-3 in conference play during the 2014-15 season, and earned the Canada West bronze medal.