Men's Basketball: Semifinal sayings

HALIFAX — The second day of the men's Final 8 saw one down-to-the-wire finish and another impressive display of basketball prowess. One team made its first national title game while another failed to reach its third straight; one team got revenge on the team that eliminated them last year while another had its title defence ended. Here's what went down in the semi-finals from the perspective of the players and coaches who took part.

Trinity Western 74, UBC 72

Kyle Coston and the Trinity Western Spartans ended the UBC Thunderbirds' championship hopes, turning a nine-point halftime deficit into a nail-biting 74-72 win to reach the championship game in the school's first-ever Final 8 appearance. Coston drained a three-pointer with 11 seconds left to give Trinity Western the lead, and after UBC's Kamar Burke missed a three of his own with time winding down, the Spartans were off to the final.

The Thunderbirds came out strong and led by 10 after one quarter and led by as many as 16 points, but a 10-0 run to open the second half keyed a strong second quarter for Trinity Western. Coston scored 20 of his 23 points after halftime, including the game-winning shot. He missed two free throws that would have put TWU up three with just over a minute to go, but more than made up for it with his big shot moments later. The Spartans used their massive lineup to dominate the rebounds and harass UBC's passing game, winning the rebounding battle 50-41 and causing the Thunderbirds to go just 6-for-21 from beyond the arc.

The elation of Trinity's sudden success is juxtaposed by the bitter disappointment from the veteran-heavy UBC squad, which came up short of reaching its third straight Championship game. Fifth-year stars Josh Whyte and Brent Malish combined to go just 4-for-20 from the field, and while fellow fifth-year Alex Murphy carried the Thunderbirds at times with 21 points, it was not enough to overcome the Spartans' onslaught.

Late-game hero Coston:

- On TWU's strong second half: "The morale was down a little bit at halftime. We fought hard that first half, and [to be down nine points] at the half put the fire under our butts a little bit. We didn't come all this way to get beat in a close one."

- On playing a big role in the Final 8: "I played Division 1 basketball for three years [at Portland State] and went to two March Madness tournaments, but performing like this on this time of stage is great. It's amazing."

- On refocusing for tomorrow's final: "It feels good and some guys are celebrating, but we still have one more game to play."

Spartans coach Scott Allen:

- On UBC having to beat Trinity Western for the third time this season: "I wouldn't want to have to win three games in a row. It's always hard to be in that position. Those guys had everything to lose."

- On closing this game after late breakdowns in others: "Every game we've played this year in the Canada West and in the playoffs we've had a hard time closing games off. We really pushed the ball inside at the end and Kyle Coston hit some big shots ... We focused on the mismatches and went to our bigger and stronger players."

- On reserve guard Dan Horner playing big minutes after starter Tristan Smith fouled out with eight minutes left: "Danny had a real rough first half. He's a fifth year guy and a big-time leader in our room. I think he realized he had to step up and he had a phenomenal second half."

UBC coach Kevin Hanson:

- On the second half: "We got out of our rotations and I think that kind of caught our flow. We were sitting a few guys with two fouls in the first half, and when a player picks up two early fouls it's very difficult to come back in the third quarter and into the rhythm of the game. We weren't aggressive enough looking to attack and we didn't play the pace we wanted to play."

- On Whyte, Malish and Murphy coming up short of a title: "It's very tough to take one on the chin like this today. But it's not a reflection of the season. We had a bad half of basketball today and the things that they've accomplished over their career - very few people in sports and the CIS get a chance to play in five national championships - that's something that history can't change. I'm very proud of their efforts. They've won a lot of basketball games and been great ambassadors for our program. We lost three games over the year - one by one point and two by two points. I told them they should be proud of their careers and wished them the best in their future in basketball."

- On refocusing for the Bronze medal game tomorrow: "I told them I'm coming to coach to win tomorrow, so I hope they come to play to win."

Carleton 95, Saskatchewan 83

The Carleton Ravens executed their gameplan to near-perfection, knocking down open threes and punishing the Saskatchewan Huskies defence with Player of the Year Tyson Hinz in a 95-82 win. Hinz scored 32 points and was unstoppable in the second half, helping the Ravens pull away from the desperate Huskies.

Carleton forced Saskatchewan to spread their defence with a trigger-happy first quarter, as Elliot Thompson and Phil Scrubb went 'bombs away.' After they made a few, it left the Huskies no choice but to give Hinz plenty of space to operate, and the 6'6" sophomore took full advantage. Things only got worse for Saskatchewan when forwards Michael Lieffers and Nolan Brudehl got in foul trouble, rendering them even more helpless to Hinz' relentless attack.

Saskatchewan's duo of Rejean Chabot and Jamelle Barrett were once again brilliant at times, but were forced into tough shot after tough shot by the likes of Scrubb, Willy Manigat and Cole Hobin. The Huskie duo combined for 54 points, but went just 16-for-44 from the field. Saskatchewan also missed 17 of its 45 free throws and shot just 39 per cent from the field overall.

Ravens coach Dave Smart:

- On Hinz' dominance in the second half: "[Saskatchewan] played him straight up and we weren't going to get a lot of threes, so we had to get him the ball. He's who we play through and usually we get a lot of threes. Today he had the opportunity to shoot a little bit."

- On Trinity Western's massive lineup: "We have some real matchup issues. It's going to be a tough game."

Player of the Year Hinz:

- On beating the Saskatchewan team that eliminated Carleton last year: "After that loss, I've had game film of it on my computer for so long. To beat them in the same spot is great."

- On Carleton making threes early to spread the defence: "It definitely helps. The guards always have the shooters in the back of their heads and they had to feel cautious about double-teaming."

- On keeping the Huskies' tandem of Michael Lieffers and Nolan Brudehl in check (14 points combined): "We had to be active. We know when Barrett attacks he dishes it off for dunks so we had to help early, get our hands active and rotate properly."

- On a steely atmosphere between he and Barrett in the pre-game All-Canadian Award presentations: "Barrett's a great player. He's a hell of a player and I don't know what to say about that. He played well, but we got him today."

Huskies coach Barry Rawlyk:

- On Carleton's game plan: "Ultimately, I've got to give Carleton a lot of credit. They came out and had a good game plan and they're well-coached and well-disciplined... That's really what they want you to do. They want you to come down and double-team, and then they move the ball very well on the perimeter and find the open shooters. Our experience in the first quarter was as soon as we left those guys open they were hitting some shots on us so it was necessary for us to be able to stick to their perimeter shooters."

- On his season as interim head coach while Greg Jockims was away on sabbatical: "It's been a really humbling experience for me personally. Being able to work with these guys, you put all kinds of demands on them and ask them to make a huge commitment and follow what you ask them to do and it's a very humbling experience."

- On Hinz' play down the stretch: "We had a tough time containing him because every time he caught the ball in the paint there was a whistle blowing... Did we expect him to be a factor? Of course, he was just named the most outstanding player in the country. Having said that, I thought our guys didn't have much of a chance to be able to defend him the way we planned."

Huskies forward Nolan Brudehl:

- On losing in the semi-final and not being able to defend their Championship in the title game: "My pet peeve is losing. It's a huge thing for me not to lose."


Tomorrow's action is all set with three games on the schedule:

- Lakehead vs. Dalhousie - 5th place game: 10:30 AM Atlantic

- UBC vs. Saskatchewan - Bronze medal game: 1:15 PM Atlantic

- Trinity Western vs. Carleton - Championship game: 5:00 PM Atlantic

Hinz and his Ravens will likely be in tough against the massive Trinity Western lineup tomorrow and won't be able to dominate post-ups like they did against Saskatchewan. Meanwhile, the Spartans will have to deal with the precision execution of a disciplined Carleton team looking for its seventh title in nine years.

You can catch the action all day right here at The CIS Blog.
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