UNBC gets chance to defend title
The main thing for the UNBC Northern Timberwolves is they’re returning to the Canadian Colleges Athletic Association (CCAA) men’s basketball nationals to defend their 2010 title.
But this time, they’re not going as a provincial champion and top-ranked team.
They lost that opportunity on Saturday night at Columbia Bible College in Abbotsford, dropping a 96-90 decision to the Vancouver Island University Mariners in the final of this year’s B.C. Colleges Athletic Association provincial tournament. The defeat came a day after UNBC booked its ticket to this year’s national competition in Oshawa, Ont., with a 93-78 triumph over the Capilano University Blues.
The eight-team 2011 CCAA nationals are being hosted by Durham College of the Ontario Colleges Athletic Association next Thursday to Saturday. The CCAA All-Canadian Banquet is next Wednesday.
“We’re going to have to be really mentally prepared,” Northern Timberwolves head coach Todd Jordan said on Sunday. “It’s going to be a lot of travel and those sorts of things, so we’ll have to adjust quickly to the difference in time and those sorts of things.”
A year ago at Calgary’s Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT), UNBC captured the CCAA title with a 96-63 victory over the host SAIT Trojans in the final. Next week marks their third consecutive appearance at nationals as they finished fourth as hosts of the 2009 tournament at the Northern Sport Centre.
Joining the wildcard Timberwolves, BCCAA champion Mariners and host team are the Northern Alberta Instutute of Technology (Edmonton), Lethbridge, Mount Saint Vincent University (Halifax, N.S.), Humber College (Toronto) and Vanier (St. Laurent, Que.). Rankings weren’t released until Monday.
“We could get as high as five. It’s hard to know. It depends how they set up the draw,” Jordan said. “It depends on a number of things. We’ve had a very strong year so it’s possible that we end up as high as five.”
In Saturday evening’s final, the Timberwolves fell behind the eight ball early, trailing Vancouver Island 27-12 after the first quarter.
“We dug ourselves a hole. We didn’t play well defensively at all,” Jordan said. “We had some miscommunications early especially and we were missing a little bit of that edge when it came to rebounding the basketball and defensively, and against an excellent team like VIU that’s going to hurt you. They’re a very tough team. I’m not taking anything away from them.”
Mariners fifth-year forward Andrew Kaban led all scorers in the championship game with 29 points on his way to getting named the Most Valuable Player of the competition. Fourth-year guards Jacob Thom and Mike Wohlers recorded 24 and 18 points respectively.
On the UNBC side, fifth-year guard Inderbir Gill recorded 28 points, third-year guard Francis Rowe collected 21 and fourth-year guard Sebastien-Kevin Louis had 19. Gill, Louis, Thom and Wohlers joined Capilano rookie guard James Lum on the tournament all-star team.
Jordan called Kaban, Thom and Wohlers outstanding players.
“I don’t think (the Mariners) are quite as deep as we are, but they have every bit as much firepower as we do offensively and they’re a tough matchup for anybody,” he said. “That’s why they’re ranked Number 1 (in Canada) right now and right now our guys are hoping that we might get a chance to see them again at nationals.”
In the semifinal on Friday afternoon, UNBC was boosted by a strong first quarter of its own, outscoring Capilano 32-12. In that contest, Louis recorded a game-high 23 points. Third-year guard Glen Gravegard led the Blues with 19 points, while Lum chipped in with 17.
“We didn’t do as good of a job defensively as we needed to down the stretch of that game because we were giving up too many rim drives and those sort of things,” Jordan said. “But we went out, we were able to force them into turnovers and make a lot of threes which caused them obviously a lot of problems.”
The Timberwolves finished second in the 10-team BCCAA division in the regular season with a 16-2 record.
Jordan couldn’t confirm their travel plans on the weekend, but expected they’d leave for Oshawa on Tuesday and return to Prince George next Sunday.
“You’re not going to get any easy games out there, that’s for sure.”