Second-half struggles spelled the end of the season for the University of the Fraser Valley men’s basketball team on Saturday afternoon, as they dropped an 84-59 decision to the Winnipeg Wesmen in Game 3 of their Canada West first-round playoff series.
The Cascades led by as many as 12 points in the first half at the University of Winnipeg’s Duckworth Centre, and took a 34-30 lead into the break. But the last 20 minutes were dominated by the Wesmen – the hosts blitzed UFV 31-9 in the third quarter and continued to roll in the fourth to seal the best-of-three series victory.
The Wesmen move on to face the No. 2-seeded Saskatchewan Huskies on the road in the Canada West quarter-finals.
Saturday’s result marked the conclusion of Manny Dulay and Vijay Dhillon’s Cascades careers. Dulay notched a team-high 11 points to go with five rebounds and five assists, and fellow fifth-year guard Dhillon had seven points and four boards.
Rookie guard Narcisse Ambanza led the charge for the Wesmen, racking up 22 points on 9-of-14 shooting from the field, and Denzel Lynch-Blair (19 points) and Sean Tarver (14 points) also made significant offensive contributions.
“We just didn’t match their energy in the third quarter, and we lost some composure after that,” Cascades head coach Adam Friesen said. “The University of Winnipeg has shown us this weekend that when they get on a run, they can really go on a big one. Once they got started, we weren’t able to slow them down.”
The Cascades had a solid first half – they led 15-10 at the end of the first quarter, and stretched the lead to double digits after Andrew Morris opened the second with a two-point jumper followed by a triple on the next UFV possession.
The Wesmen, though, found some traction midway through the frame, authoring a 9-0 run with four points from Ambanza, and cut the deficit to 34-30 at the half.
The third quarter was all Winnipeg – they turned the tables on the Cascades with a 17-4 run, as the visitors struggled to contain the Wesmen’s dribble penetration. At the other end, Winnipeg made life difficult for Dulay – coming off a sensational 29-point performance in Friday’s Game 2 win – and the rest of the Cascades.
“From some tough losses early to growing to where we had this opportunity to get to Game 3 in the playoffs, we came a long way,” said Friesen, reflecting on a season which saw the Cascades post an 11-9 record in league play and earn a Canada West playoff berth for the eighth straight season. “I’m looking forward to next year already.”