The University of Calgary Dinos men's basketball team moved on to the Canada West final four after sweeping the University of Alberta Golden Bears two games to none in the best-of-three series in front of near capacity crowds at the Jack Simpson Gymnasium last weekend. The Dinos proved in convincing fashion that they were the best team in the central division by winning the first game 87-78 and the second game 90-66.
Rust did play a factor in the first half of the Friday night game. The Dinos earned a first-round playoff bye by finishing in first place in the central division giving them a 13-day layoff. Dino star forward Henry Bekkering looked off his game early on and the Dinos threw away a five-point lead late in the second quarter, which quickly turned into a five-point deficit at the half after the Dinos turned the ball over with just seconds left on the clock. The Bears' C.G. Morrison hit a three-point shot with no time left on the clock to make the score 44-39 for Edmonton.
The Dinos regrouped during the break and tied the game up in the first minute. They pushed 13-3 run which made it 52-45 for the Dinos and never relinquished the lead. With time winding down, Ross Bekkering completed the three-point play to cap a 30-point third quarter for the Dinos, taking a 69-60 lead into the fourth quarter.
With a comfortable lead, Dinos head coach Dan Vanhooren played his bench more in the fourth quarter as the Bears never seriously threatened to retake it. The Dinos led by as much as 14 points, but a 7-2 Bears run late in the game reduced the Dinos lead to nine points. Henry Bekkering finished the game with a double-double, scoring a game-high 27 points and 10 rebounds. His younger brother Ross posted 16 points, returning from an ankle injury which caused him to miss the final five games of the regular season. Forward Robbie Sihota would also have a double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds.
"We wanted to come out strong," said Ross Bekkering. "We had a week off last week and we knew that we would have to be focused and have a good start to the game. I thought we brought a lot of energy and we had good performances from a lot of guys, Jeff [Price] really controlled the game and Henry did his usual scoring output."
Saturday night's game was the best game played by the Dinos so far this season and it was played in front of a near capacity crowd of 2,804. The Dinos came out strong and, for awhile, the Bears were able to match them point-for-point until the Dinos went on a 7-0 run at the end of the first quarter giving them a 23-16 lead. The quarter also witnessed one of the nicest plays of the year. With a minute left in the quarter, Ross Bekkering had a huge block and the rebound went to Dino guard Cody Darrah who went on to find Henry Bekkering for the spectacular alley-oop, bringing the crowd to its feet.
Calgary encountered some foul trouble in the third quarter with six called in the first 3:45 but the Bears didn't take advantage of the opportunity, as they missed foul shot after foul shot. The Dinos bench also played extremely well and extended the lead.
Dino-domination continued into the fourth quarter as Henry Bekkering had two more fantastic dunks and coach Vanhooren had a big enough lead which allowed him to play his bench for the final minutes of the game. Henry would have another double-double with a game high 31 points and 11 rebounds. Sihota rocked 17 points and Ross Bekkering worked a double-double with 17 points and 11 rebounds. The Bears' star player Alex Steele as limited to just 12 points on the night.
"We met their physical presence and they came after us pretty physically for the whole first half," said Vanhooren. "And our guys stepped up and met that intensity and that's the difference in the whole game. If they wanted to come and play physical ball we're ready to do that and I'm really proud of our guys for meeting that challenge."
The win is also a big boost of confidence for a young team.
"It's huge," said Sihota on sweeping the Bears. "In the last eight years we haven't swept U of A in a playoff series, so it's big for our team going in Canada West finals.