Dinos fend off UBC in intense west final

By Brad Halasz

If the University of Calgary men’s basketball team were writing this they would set aside perhaps just one short paragraph to describe their Canada West championship-winning weekend.

They do, after all, have bigger, bolder aspirations: the Canadian Interuniversity Sport championship.

While the team might be focused on the CIS final eight, fans are left to bask in the Dinos’ intense and perhaps too-close-for comfort 80-76 Canada West final win against the home team University of British Columbia Thunderbirds in B.C. on Saturday.

The Dinos got off to a better-than-expected start in the first half and spent the remainder of the game fending off an offensive onslaught they knew would be coming from the home court Thunderbirds.

“We got up early in the first half and because we were in enemy territory we knew they were going to make a run with a big crowd and all the energy there, so as soon as they did make that run, we stayed poised and a few guys on our team stepped up and made some big plays,” said fourth-year forward Ross Bekkering, who tallied eight rebounds in the first half.

Big plays are essential to any championship-winning narrative, and while Ross made several of his own, it was his brother Henry and fourth-year forward Robbie Sihota who stole the show in the dying minutes of the game.

Henry’s diving effort at an offensive rebound led to Sihota nailing a jump shot to take the lead by two points.

It would be Sihota again– this time with about 15 seconds left– who would convert a clutch three-point opportunity that sealed the deal for the Dinos.

The Bekkering brothers combined for 39 points in the game, while Sihota notched 15.

It seems the Dinos are peaking at the right time and have shown they are to be feared heading into the CIS final eight in Ottawa March 13-15.

The Dinos were back at work Monday after taking the weekend to rebel rouse, as one imagines a varsity basketball team would do after winning a championship.

“We enjoyed ourselves Saturday night and Sunday was more of a recovery day,” said Ross. “We knew as soon as we won that it was a matter of only a few days that we can actually enjoy it then we had to get refocused, nationals are right around the corner.”

“We enjoyed it, now we’re focused on having a good week in practice, we don’t know who we’re going to play yet, we just have to do the things that got us this far,” Henry said echoing the we’re-only-half-way-there sentiment. “And that’s basically having good practices and not getting caught up in the moment.”

Dinos head coach Dan Vanhooren praised his team’s efforts, but was also focused on the week ahead.

“Today’s practice and throughout this week will be really tough on the guys then we’ll start to taper Friday and into next week so that they have a lot of energy and they are ready to go,” he said.

The Dinos will have almost two weeks before they play a game– a prospect that may irk some teams, but Henry says the inbetween time is a valued asset.

“Canada West playoffs took so much out of us physically, the first week you just kind of take care of your body and recuperate a bit and then after that your just right into the game plan,” he said.

Vanhooren said the team will hold four or five intense practices this week before getting a rest on the weekend. Leaving for the CIS tournament next Wednesday, the team hopes their peak-and-taper plan will pay off and perhaps they will set aside an entire column to dissect what they hope will be a CIS championship victory.

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