Dhillon, Cascades edge Laurier in final non-conference game

Andrew Morris notched 10 points and a team-high six rebounds in Sunday's exhibition win over Laurier.

Andrew Morris notched 10 points and a team-high six rebounds in Sunday’s exhibition win over Laurier.

Vijay Dhillon came up big in the late going for the University of the Fraser Valley men’s basketball team on Sunday afternoon, sparking the Cascades to a 74-71 exhibition victory over the Laurier Golden Hawks at the Envision Athletic Centre.

Dhillon, the Cascades’ fifth-year shooting guard, was wearing a face mask to protect a broken nose, but it didn’t affect his shooting touch. Over the last three minutes of regulation, the Richmond, B.C. product was directly involved in all nine points UFV scored – he netted seven of them himself, and picked up an assist on a layup by Matt Cooley.

Seven of Vijay Dhillon's game-high 21 points came in the last three minutes of regulation.

Seven of Vijay Dhillon’s game-high 21 points came in the last three minutes of regulation.

Dhillon finished with a game-high 21 points on 6-of-12 shooting from the field, and his fifth-year backcourt mate Manny Dulay chipped in with 17 points, five rebounds, five assists and three steals. Other offensive contributors for the Cascades included Andrew Morris (10 points), Nav Bains (nine points) and Cooley (eight points).

Tevaun Kokko (19 points) and Matt Chesson (18) replied for Laurier.

It was the non-conference finale for both teams – the Cascades open the Canada West regular season next weekend at home against the Saskatchewan Huskies, while the Waterloo, Ont.-based Golden Hawks host the Ryerson Rams next Saturday in their Ontario University Athletics (OUA) opener.

“It was nice to see Vijay get into a rhythm,” Cascades head coach Adam Friesen said. “He’s been battling injuries for a while now, so he hasn’t seen much court time. But to see him get into some game rhythm at the end of this one bodes well going into league play.”

The Golden Hawks, playing their last game of a West Coast exhibition swing following match-ups with the UBC Thunderbirds (a 96-63 loss) and the UNBC Timberwolves (a 71-61 win), had a strong finish to the second quarter and led 36-31 at the break.

The Cascades’ offence was ultra-efficient in the second half, though – the hosts shot a scorching 68.2 per cent from the field the rest of the way. UFV led 62-58 with seven minutes to play, but Laurier responded with a 7-0 run. Three points from Nav Bains drew the Cascades even, and Dhillon took over in the final three minutes, swishing a tie-breaking triple, a long two-point jumper, and two free throws.

Laurier’s Owen Coulthard had a shot to tie it at the buzzer, but his contested effort over two Cascades defenders came up empty.

The game marked a return to action for UFV third-year forward Mark Johnson, who missed the vast majority of the 2015-16 campaign after undergoing knee surgery. The Palm Springs, Calif. product registered two points, four rebounds and three assists in 21 minutes.

Awesome to see this guy back on the court today – first game action in almost a year! #welcomebackMark #strongerthanever

A photo posted by UFV Cascades Athletics (@ufvcascades) on

UFV shot 54 per cent for the game while the Golden Hawks made just 34.2 per cent of their attempts from the field, but Laurier stayed in it by generating turnovers and offensive rebounds. The rebounding battle was 38-38 overall, but the Golden Hawks snared 18 offensive boards. They also turned the ball over just 11 times, compared to 21 for the Cascades.

“We showed some decent stuff offensively – we’ve just got to take care of turnovers and rebounding,” Friesen noted. “We’ll see what it’s worth next weekend, but we’re slowly coming together.”

The Cascades basketball teams launch into the Canada West regular season next Friday (women 6 p.m., men 8 p.m.) and Saturday (women 5 p.m., men 7 p.m.) against Saskatchewan at the Envision Athletic Centre.

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