Wesmen rally in the dying minutes to edge Cascades in playoff opener

Nav Bains hit his first four shots from the field to stake UFV to an 8-0 lead, but the Winnipeg Wesmen rallied to win Game 1 of the best-of-three series.

The University of the Fraser Valley men’s basketball team saw its offence go ice-cold at an inopportune time, as the Winnipeg Wesmen reeled off a game-ending 18-0 run to steal an 82-76 victory in Game 1 of their Canada West first-round playoff series.

Playing at Winnipeg’s Duckworth Centre, the Cascades had a phenomenal third quarter, out-scoring the Wesmen 24-10 to build a 13-point lead heading into the fourth.

But the hosts dominated the final frame, holding the Cascades scoreless over the last 6:21 of regulation to claim a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three series. Game 2 goes Friday afternoon (3 p.m. CST / 1 p.m. PST, webcast at ufv.canadawest.tv).

“We just lost the momentum of the game,” Cascades head coach Adam Friesen said. “All the energy in the fourth quarter started going towards Winnipeg, and we couldn’t find any way to stop it.

“We got stagnant (offensively) in the fourth quarter, and their defensive intensity picked up big-time on us. That combination is something we just can’t have.”

Nav Bains was on fire to start the game – the Cascades’ fourth-year centre made his first four shots from the field to stake UFV to an 8-0 lead. The Wesmen answered with a 9-0 run of their own and would go on to build a 10-point lead in the first quarter, but Andrew Morris scored 10 points in the second as the Cascades got back to within 46-45 at the break.

The third quarter was all UFV – the Wesmen were stymied by the Cascades’ 1-3-1 zone defence, and Morris scored the Cascades’ last seven points of the quarter as they took a 69-56 lead.

Vijay Dhillon drives past a Winnipeg opponent.

Winnipeg opened the fourth with eight straight points, but the Cascades appeared to steady themselves with a 7-0 run in response, capped by an Anthony Gilchrist bucket in the paint off a feed from Mark Johnson.

But those would be the last points UFV would score. The ball movement that had defined the Cascades’ third-quarter surge dried up in the late going, and when they did generate a good look, the basket seemed to have a lid on it. The Wesmen had no such issues – Lynch-Blair and Ryan Oirbans scored six points apiece in the game-ending run.

Morris was outstanding for the Cascades, scoring 19 points on 8-of-13 shooting from the field. Four other UFV players scored in double figures: Manny Dulay (15 points, four steals, three assists), Gilchrist (12 points, 10 rebounds), Bains (12 points) and Vijay Dhillon (10 points, four assists).

Lynch-Blair scored a game-high 23 points, Oirbans scored 21, and Sean Tarver chipped in with 18 off the bench for the Wesmen.

“We’ve got to find a way to deal with it, it’s the only thing we can do,” Friesen said, contemplating how his team needs to mentally process the tough Game 1 loss and get ready for Game 2. “Maybe it’s a good thing it’s a quick turnaround and we get back on the floor right away.”

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