End of season, end of time here
For UNBC, the Canada West journey is only one season young.
But you may consider this weekend the end of an era.
Four players who had key roles in the Timberwolves’ success in men’s basketball at the college level will hit the floor for their final varsity game this weekend. Fifth-year guards Sam Raphael, Francis Rowe, Joel Rybachuk and Jose Araujo will be honoured on Saturday evening at the Northern Sport Centre. A special graduation ceremony for the foursome, and UNBC female graduate Kady Dandeneau, will take place between the women’s and men’s contests against the Mount Royal Cougars.
The Timberwolves meet the Cougars in a NSC doubleheader this evening and Saturday. Game times are scheduled for 6 p.m. (women) and 8 p.m. (men).
UNBC men’s basketball head coach Todd Jordan expects the feeling to be bittersweet.
“On one side, we’re going to be able to celebrate the accomplishments and the careers of four guys who were extremely important to the program and have been great guys for the program,” he says. “On the other hand, it’s going to be tough to say goodbye to those guys. There’s a certain part of the season being done that obviously we don’t like. To be done as early as we are, it’s tough in that sense. But it’s kind of going to be a nice transition for us. It’s a chance for those seniors to have their last hurrah at home in front of the home crowd, and it’s going to be a transition point where moving forward, our team is going to look a lot different than it has the last few years, without those guys here.”
Raphael, Rowe and Rybachuk spent all five years of their varsity basketball eligibility with the Timberwolves. They committed to the program in 2008, and were members of a team that enjoyed no shortage of success in its final few years in the Canadian Colleges Athletic Association. The Timberwolves competed in four straight CCAA national tournaments, a streak highlighted with the 2010 CCAA championship banner. They finished fourth as hosts of the 2009 tournament.
Araujo, a Toronto product with roots in El Salvador, used his first two years of eligibility at Humber College. He also took a year off varsity basketball during the 2010-11 campaign. But in three seasons at UNBC, he’s been one of the Timberwolves’ most prolific scorers. His first season at UNBC culminated with the 2010 CCAA nationals in Calgary, where he was named a first-team all-star, recording 26 points in the Timberwolves’ 96-63 triumph over the host SAIT (Southern Alberta Institute of Technology) Trojans in the championship game.
Raphael is the only Prince George product among the Timberwolves’ graduating class. Rowe grew up in Victoria, while Rybachuk is a Vernon product.
“Those guys definitely had a huge part of building the program to what it is today,” Jordan says.
The Timberwolves won’t see playoff action in their inaugural Canada West Universities Athletic Association season.
With a 5-15 record, UNBC enters its final two regular-season games in sixth place in the eight-team Pacific Division. The four playoff representatives from the division have already been determined: the UBC Thunderbirds (18-2), Victoria Vikes (14-6), Trinity Western Spartans (11-9) and Fraser Valley Cascades (11-9).
The Calgary-based Cougars carry a 4-16 mark into this weekend. They’re seventh in the Pacific, ahead of only the UBC Okanagan Heat (3-18). The fifth-place Thompson Rivers University WolfPack (7-14) round out the division.
“They’re definitely a dangerous team,” Jordan says of the Cougars. “You can’t take them lightly, that’s for sure.”
Like the men’s doubleheader, the women’s two-game set will feature a couple of non-playoff teams.
The Timberwolves enter their final weekend of the 2012-13 season trying to improve on a 6-14 record. They’re sixth in the Pacific Division, ahead of Mount Royal (5-15) and UBC Okanagan (5-16).
Playoff bound teams in the division are Fraser Valley (16-4), UBC (16-4), Victoria (15-5) and TRU (15-6). Fifth-place Trinity Western (7-13) rounds out the loop.
At the conclusion of Saturday’s game, Dandeneau will be honoured for graduating from the Timberwolves. She’s been a UNBC student since 2007, as she took the 2010-11 season off to recover from a knee injury that originated in January 2010.
Dandeneau has been an important member of the Timberwolves. She becomes the last graduate from a 2007-08 squad which won provincials on its home court.