The Winnipeg Wesmen completed a huge second-half comeback in overtime, edging the University of the Fraser Valley Cascades 90-88 on Friday at the Envision Financial Athletic Centre.
In Canada West men’s basketball action, the host Cascades led by as many as 26 points early in the third quarter, but the Wesmen battled all the way back and forced OT on Denzel Lynch-Blair’s fast-break layup in the dying seconds.
Winnipeg carried that momentum into the extra session, surviving a potential game-winning shot from beyond the arc from UFV’s Vick Toor at the buzzer to claim the victory.
The Cascades (1-6) and Wesmen (2-5) lock horns again on Saturday (7 p.m., Envision Athletic Centre, webcast at CanadaWest.tv).
“When they turned on the (defensive) pressure, it was tough for us and we weren’t able to handle it overly well and got away from the stuff that got us the lead,” Cascades head coach Adam Friesen analyzed. “We’ve got to learn from that and come better-prepared tomorrow to handle their intensity.
“In the first half, we had lots of ball movement and player movement – we were making them have to move around (defensively) and do things. But once the intensity came in, the ball really stood still. Once we got passive, we couldn’t get back to the motion. It became a one-on-one game, and that’s not how we’re going to beat this team.”
The Cascades were on fire in the first half, shooting 51.5 per cent from the field and 41.7 per cent from beyond the arc, and leading by as many as 20 points. They reeled off a 12-0 run during the second quarter, capped by Sagar Dulay’s third three-pointer of the half. But the Wesmen fashioned a 5-0 mini-run of their own in the final minute to steal a bit of momentum back, albeit still trailing 48-33 at the break.
UFV opened the third on an 11-0 surge to claim their largest lead of the night, 59-33 just three minutes into the frame. However, they also picked up five team fouls during that stretch. The Wesmen began chipping away at the lead, closing the gap to 66-49 at the end of the third.
Winnipeg brought full-court pressure in the fourth, inducing eight Cascades turnovers to spark the rally. They cut the deficit to 75-70 with 3:30 left on a Lynch-Blair layup, but Cascades rookie guard Kenan Hadzovic responded with a three-pointer to make it 78-70 with just over three minutes remaining.
Those would be the last points UFV would score in regulation, though – Winnipeg finished the frame on an 8-0 run, capped by Lynch-Blair’s transition bucket, and they surged ahead in OT, going up 89-83 after William Sesay’s layup with one minute left.
UFV’s Mark Johnson went on a personal 5-0 run, though, to give the Cascades a shot – he hit a pair of free throws followed by a three-pointer with 12 seconds left to draw his team to within 89-88. After Winnipeg’s DJ Dixon went 1-for-2 at the free throw line, Toor had an off-balance triple for the win at the buzzer, but his shot drew iron.
Fourth-year forward Andrew Morris paced the Cascades with a season-high 24 points to go with nine rebounds, and UFV had four other double-figure scorers: Johnson (15 points, 12 rebounds), Dulay (14 points, 4-of-6 from three), Hadzovic (11) and Daniel Adediran (11).
Lynch-Blair had a huge night for the Wesmen, racking up a game-high 28 points on 13-of-17 shooting. Dixon had 14 points off the bench, and Billy Yaworsky and Don Dayrit scored 10 apiece.
“I’m not sure, to be honest,” Winnipeg head coach Mike Raimbault said with a wry chuckle, when asked how his team managed to pull off the comeback. “It was a pretty crazy game. It looked like we were almost out of chances, and credit to the guys – they never quit. They kept playing, and they managed to claw their way back and force overtime. And once you get to overtime, anything can happen.
“We were really, really fortunate.”