With only two regular season games remaining and the formality of "postseason basketball" to determine a Conference and National champion, an 11-game schedule marked the final weekend of a full slate of games. The weekend in Canada West ball was highlighted by Victoria's invasion of War Memorial Gymnasium and the second half of the home-and-home series (Game 1 was two weeks ago, so I guess the home-other game-other-game-and-home series) between Fraser Valley rivals in Langley (TWU) and Abbotsford (UFV).
UFV 89 @ Trinity Western 70
The Cascades didn't get the rebound advantage they had in the first game of this series (only winning that battle 32 to 27, on the strength of 8 by Jasper Moedt and 4 more from Michael James coming off the bench) but it helped that the Spartans couldn't sink a shot, going 38.1% on this day. Tristan Smith and Kyl Coston were a combined 3-for-17 with just 11 points in between the two of them. Sam Freeman hit 19 points off 7-for-15 shooting and the Cascades had a 32-13 third quarter, with a 21-2 run during the middle minutes of the quarter capped off by a three-pointer from Kyle Grewal, one of seven on the night for the Cascades.
Trinity had locked up the wild card berth coming in so the loss doesn't cost them, and their slow start means they'll get a trip to either Saskatoon or Edmonton next weekend to be taken out of the plus temperatures of BC's Lower Mainland to the middle of the Western Canada to sub-zero cold and having to take on one of the conference's top two teams.
Meanwhile, UFV gets to host Lethbridge in the playoffs, a team that actually beat them earlier this season, in Abbotsford, 87-78.
Victoria 52 @ UBC 68
We billed this one as Victoria's perimeter shooting against UBC's perimeter defense. A quick check of the scoreboard will show you which team won out in the end.
UBC, who have been holding opponents to low shooting percentages all season, kept Victoria's strong shooting attack to just 26.2% this weekend and 20% beyond the arc. Ryan MacKinnon had a team-high five field goals in 33 minutes of play.
Although, surprisingly, UBC did this without any scoring depth. Malcolm Williams, hit just one field goal in 17 minutes, while it was Kamar Burke who paved the way for the Thunderbirds with 17 points and 17 boards.
So… the two teams are at 13-4, with one game left and… HEY! It's against one another on Friday night. That could be a fun one to watch, particularly since the loser will get the 3rd seed and therefore be forced to travel to Edmonton or Saskatoon. Winner gets Calgary.
Manitoba 79 @ Saskatchewan 95 | Manitoba 81 @ Saskatchewan 106
The Huskies are healthy and ready for the post-season, having won nine straight now and have kept pace with the Alberta Golden Bears. Jamelle Barrett paced the Huskies this weekend with 56 points.
Saskatchewan only had three three-pointers this weekend, so let's watch a compilation video of dunks from this season:
That is how I envision the weekend having shaken out. Saskatchewan outscored the Bisons 51-33 in first quarters and displayed their size dominance in both games, out-rebounding Manitoba 112 to 61. Michael Lieffers had 19 rebounds, 18 points in Saturday's game while all ten Husky players picked up one rebound at least.
Saskatchewan finish their season against Regina on Saturday. If they win, they take the division and get to host Trinity Western. If they lose (hah!) Alberta will leap-frog them in the standings and they'll instead play the loser of UBC/U-Vic. I think. Canada West makes it pretty hard to find useful information.
Brandon 53 @ Alberta 92 | Brandon 51 @ Alberta 72
"This week in unsurprising blowouts" Alberta goes into the playoffs, like Saskatchewan, on a roll and they'll get either UBC/U-Vic or Trinity Western depending on how things shake out this week. The big story in this game is probably that Jordan Baker conceded the team lead in scoring to Daniel Ferguson on Saturday, being out-scored 23-14, albeit playing ten fewer minutes. Baker also put up 12 rebounds on the night for the only double-double for either team on the weekend.
On Friday, Alberta out-scored Regina 30-13 in the third quarter coming out of the gate strong and got some depth scoring: Matthew Cardoza saw a lot more touches, got 12 points while Sahr Saffa came off the bench to score 11 points in 20 minutes. Also, Regina turned the ball over 17 times.
Regina 69 @ Lethbridge 94 | Regina 72 @ Lethbridge 96
It's been quite a year for the Lethbridge Pronghorns. After finishing 7-17 last season and 10th in the conference, Lethbridge will finish this year's campaign at 11-9 and sixth overall in the Conference thanks to the recruitment of several college transfers, in particular, Dominyc Coward, Daryl Cooper and Alex Fletcher.
Just one starter from last year's final game started in this season's for the 'Horns: Derek Waldner, who played 17 minutes and shared a game-high of nine rebounds with two other players. Cooper, also on Saturday, led the team with 12 points, who deferred to their bench, Tyson McIntyre, Niko Kovac and Fletcher, who all earned double-digits in points while Kovac also picked up 8 boards off the pine.
On Friday, it was the starters for the balanced Lethbridge team. Despite an 18-point bench performance from Sterling Nostedt, Duce, Julian Spear Chief-Morris (who leads Canada West with the coolest name, just ahead of Jarred Ogungbemi-Jackson) Cooper and Coward all had double-digit point nights, while Waldener again led the team with eight rebounds.
So Lethbridge goes into the playoffs on a positive note, drawing UFV in the process, a team they, as mentioned, beat earlier this season. It should be interesting, and Dave Adams has to be very happy with the group he assembled this season, regardless of whether or not they survive this weekend's playoff games.
UBC Okanagan 68 @ Thompson Rivers 85 | Thompson Rivers 71 @ UBC Okanagan 71
This one wasn't much of a fight. After the TRU women's basketball team clinched the program's first ever basketball playoff spot (yaaay!) with a sweep of UBC-O (Jen Ju looking positively Dirk Nowitzki-esque with her mastery of the Heat's defence) the men swept the series, and, after a promising start, finished just 6-12, improving from last year's 4-20 record.
However, they did recruit and showcase several future stars. Justin King led the Conference in scoring, but couldn't help the team drive its way to a playoff spot. Chas Kok, in TRU's final home game of the season on Saturday, and his final ever home game in his CIS career, had a game-high 26, shooting 11-for-17, while Justin King went 7-for-10 to earn 19 and help him seal his scoring title. TRU jumped out to a quick first half lead 41-26 and got young big men Will Ondrik and Blaz Bozinovic (third best name in Canada West) wore the Heat out in garbage time.
On Sunday, Kok again led TRU with 21 points and 9 rebounds, but it was former Kitsilano Blue Demon Yassine Ghomari with 25 points and 4 assists to lead the Heat to an upset win over rival WolfPack. This one was played in Kelowna.
Winnipeg 86 @ Calgary 99 | Winnipeg 78 @ Calgary 94
While Calgary go into the playoffs as the 4th seed in the East, I have to think they're the most dangerous low seed going in. They have wins over Alberta, Saskatchewan and UBC and have won six straight since getting Boris Bakovic back into the lineup and playing regular minutes.
Their offence was on display this weekend against relatively weak competition. Tyler Fidler had team highs in points (30, 26) and rebounds (7, 10) both games, while Ogungbemi-Jackson had 24 Friday and Bakovic 21 on Saturday to help the Dinos cruise to a win here.
The winner of UBC and U-Vic will get Calgary in the first round, but this is a very dangerous team and probably the dark horse in the Canada West playoffs.