They both hit the court loaded with weapons. The Northern Timberwolves had the extra ammunition necessary to pull out two wins.
The Capilano University Blues and UNBC are ranked first and second in offence in the B.C. Colleges Athletic Association, and on Saturday they showed why.
A back-and-forth, fast-break game ended up a 100-94 victory for the Timberwolves. Combined with a 94-80 triumph over the Blues on Friday, the weekend sweep improved UNBC to 10-6 on the season, and secured the squad a berth in the playoffs.
This much is certain the Timberwolves will be one of six teams competing at the B.C. championships March 5 to 7 at Capilano University in North Vancouver. Where they finish in the standings remains to be seen. They’re currently in fourth.
For the UNBC men, the provincial tournament will serve as a tune-up for the Canadian Colleges Athletic Association nationals, in which they received an automatic berth as the host team. Nationals are scheduled to run from March 20 to 22 at the Northern Sport Centre.
“We’re just trying to stay focused. I know that we are in the nationals so our focus has been on just to continue to get better week by week,” UNBC men’s basketball head coach Mike Raimbault said after Saturday’s win. “Obviously, it’ll be nice to get a chance to go down to provincials and compete down there, but more than anything, we’re looking one weekend at a time and we’ll enjoy this one for tonight, and now we have to look on to (Columbia Bible College) next weekend.”
This weekend’s set with the CBC Bearcats, Friday and Saturday at the Northern Sport Centre, concludes the regular season for the Timberwolves.
Sporting a 6-10 record, the Bearcats will come into town a hungry team as they’re two points behind the sixth and final playoff position. The Douglas College Royals hold that spot, tied in points with Capilano with an identical 7-9 mark. The Vancouver Island University Mariners lead the 10-team division with an undefeated 16-0 record, and stand as favourites to join the Timberwolves at nationals as the B.C. representatives.
Rookie guard Francis Rowe, a product of Victoria, was the Timberwolves’ individual leader in scoring on Saturday with 20 points. Other players chipping in offensively with double-digit scoring figures were third-year guard Matt Mills (18), third-year guard Inderbir Gill (17), third-year guard Paul Burkholder (15) and sophomore forward Dennis Stark (10).
Connor Lewis, a rookie guard from North Vancouver who considered committing to the UNBC basketball program last spring, led the Blues in scoring with 21 points. Other top scorers for the Blues were Edward Fan (19), Ashton Levy (15) and Dan Evans (13).
The Blues stayed within striking distance of UNBC into the late stages of the game. But as he’s been so often this season, Gill was clutch from the charity stripe. With 21 seconds remaining, the business student from Spokane increased UNBC’s lead to 97-92 with a pair of free throws.
“We got the big shots and we got stops when we needed them,” said Mills, an Abbotsford native who committed to UNBC last spring, after two seasons shooting hoops at CBC. “We could’ve got a few more, but we got stops when we needed them, and big rebounds. It was good.”
Foul trouble by the Blues also played in the Timberwolves’ favour. After Capilano rookie Lukas Wera was sent to the bench for collecting his fifth and final foul, the Blues were assessed a bench technical following comments directed at the officiating by head coach Paul Eberhardt.
The Blues received a total of 31 personal fouls. The Timberwolves had 21, led by Jerrett Borsoi, who fouled out with his fifth personal in the final minute of play.
“I was proud of the way that the guys responded to a little of adversity tonight, and I think that comes from just the trust of themselves as teammates,” Raimbault said. “We’ve been in a lot of close ball games. To be honest, most ball games come down to the last few possessions of the game, so we’ve been in a lot of those situations and it’s a situation that we’re comfortable in and we were able to take care of business.”