The University of the Fraser Valley men’s basketball team battled one of the top teams in the nation down to the wire on Friday evening, but the Calgary Dinos clawed out a 92-87 decision in Calgary.
The Dinos won the U Sports national silver medal last season and currently hold the No. 5 spot in the national rankings, and they lived up to that billing on Thursday as they blitzed the Cascades 106-68.
But UFV regrouped and came with a much better effort in the rematch, finally succumbing after Denver Sparks-Guest’s potential game-tying three-pointer from the right wing fell short in the dying seconds. The Dinos tacked on two late free throws for the final five-point margin.
“I was really proud of the group – they showed a lot of character coming out after yesterday’s game and believing in themselves, knowing they could put out a better performance and better effort,” Cascades head coach Adam Friesen said. “And they did that.
“The things we’ve been trying to get through to the group all year is, you need to help the players beside you – you have to play together. Calgary, with their athleticism, makes you pay when you hold the basketball, and the guys realized we had to move without the ball and keep the ball moving to have success. Tonight we did that as well as we have all season, and we found some really good shots.”
The Cascades were the early aggressors, building a 20-16 lead at the end of the first quarter before Calgary came back to take a 48-47 edge into halftime.
The two teams battled back and forth throughout the third quarter, but the Dinos made a run early in the fourth, stretching the lead to 85-72 after a Dallas Kapinga layup with four minutes left in regulation.
The Cascades kept scrapping – they responded with a lightning-quick 15-3 run, highlighted by an extremely tough contested three-pointer by Manny Dulay from well back of the arc, to get back to within 88-87 with 32 seconds remaining.
Dinos leading scorer Thomas Cooper drew a foul on the ensuing possession and made both free throws with 12 seconds remaining to make it 90-87, and Sparks-Guests’s long-distance effort to tie the game came up short.
The Cascades fell to 5-7 while the Dinos improved to 10-2 in a game which featured 13 tied and 12 lead changes. Both teams were efficient offensively – the Cascades shot 50.8 per cent from the field, and the Dinos were at 49.3 per cent.
Dulay racked up a game-high 18 points and seven rebounds, while Anthony Gilchrist scored 14 points as part of what Friesen termed a “phenomenal” two-way effort. He had the unenviable task of guarding Cooper, and limited the reigning Canada West player of the year to 11 points on 3-of-10 shooting from the field.
Kapinga led the Dinos with 16 points, while Jasdeep Gill had a season-high 15. Nav Bains (12 points) and Mark Johnson (11) also scored in double figures for the Cascades.
“We were down 13 with four minutes left . . . but the guys dug down deep and said, we’ll battle this out to the buzzer and see what happens,” Friesen said. “It shows what kind of leadership we have, and that everyone was supporting one another.”
The Cascades basketball teams are on the road again next weekend, facing the University of Alberta on Friday and Saturday in Edmonton.
– with files from University of Calgary Athletics