Four points. Five points. For this year's Dinos men's basketball squad, those numbers ultimately defined their season. There were only four points between the Dinos and the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds in the Canada West Final, which the Dinos won 80-76. And there were only five points between the two teams in the Canadian Interuniversity Sport semi-final, this time in favour of the T-Birds, 79-74.
But for Dinos fifth-year forward Henry Bekkering, it came down to a different number. One play.
"Our team had a chance to win and a call, it could either be a charge or a block, and they called it a block," Bekkering said.
With UBC leading by just one point in the dying minute of the fourth quarter, Bekkering stepped in and was called for blocking an aggressive move to the net by T-Birds guard Chris Dyck. Dyck nailed both of his free throws and put the T-Birds up by three with less than 35 seconds left in the game. The Dinos called a timeout and fourth-year forward Robbie Sihota missed his three after the inbound. The ball bounced to Henry's brother Ross, who missed his shot. Forward Dominyc Coward missed another conversion until finally sinking the ball for two points with 20 seconds left to bring the Dinos within one. But that was as close as they would come. The Dinos were forced to foul Dyck, who sank both of his shots, and were unable to recover.
The game started off evenly. It was a match-up between the Dinos dominating interior game and the T-Birds quick perimeter play. Neither squad led by more than five points in the first half as the Dinos scored in the paint and the T-Birds hit seven of 15 from beyond the arc. The score was 45-42 for the T-Birds at half.
But things started to go awry for the Dinos in the third. UBC built an eight-point lead in the first three minutes of the quarter until Tyler Fidler, who led all Dinos with 23 points, sunk two free throws and a jumper to bring the Dinos within four with 6:27 left. The Dinos didn't score again until the end of the quarter and missed all five of their shots and turned the ball over three times during a six-minute-span that saw the T-Birds establish a 13-point lead.
"We weren't executing at all," Fidler said. "We weren't getting to the inside, we were taking a lot of outside shots, we stopped playing D for the moment . . . We could've done a way better job in the third."
The T-Birds outscored the Dinos 16-8 in the quarter. Dyck thought the T-Birds' defence was the difference in the third.
"If you can hold a team at nationals to under 10 points in a quarter, you're laughing," he said.
The Dinos walked off the court at the intermission behind by a 61-50 score, staring at elimination.
The teams traded scores until Sihota hit a three to bring the Dinos to within three with 1:54 left in the game. But Dyck stepped up for his team in the final two minutes, nailing nine of 10 free throws in the fourth quarter, including all eight after Sihota's three. Dyck, who had a tournament-high 31 points, redeemed himself after missing key free throws in the Canada West final.
"Canada West, that was definitely in my mind, but once you hit a couple, you kind of forget about that and just kind of get the feel," said Dyck.
Fidler fouled out with 1:32 left in the game, called for illegal use of the hands on Dyck, who then hit both of his free throws.
The Dinos did make it close, bringing the game to within one on two seperate occasion. Bekkering nailed what would be the final shot of his CIS career with 52 seconds left and Fidler's replacement Coward also sank two to bring the difference to one with 20 seconds left. But the Dinos were forced to foul Dyck, who sank both of his foul shots.
T-Birds coach Kevin Hanson gave full credit to Dyck for hitting those key free throws, including the two on Bekkering's foul. The T-Birds' win put them in the CIS final for the first time since Hanson was a point guard on the team back in 1987.
The T-Birds lost that final 74-66 to the Brandon University Bobcats and it was a repeat result for Hanson as UBC lost again Sunday, this time to the Carleton University Ravens dynasty, which has captured six of the last seven CIS titles. The Ravens took the final 87-77.
The graduating Bekkering was sad, but proud of his team.
"It's a disappointing way to go out, obviously you want to win a national championship," he said. "I think we played hard as a team and we had our chance to win."