In the presence of such legendary University of Calgary players Richard Bohne and Craig Newman, the Dinos finally played up to their potential Saturday night, beating Regina by 19 points. Too bad they weren't there on Friday.
The Dinos won both games against Regina, 78-65 and 94-75 respectively, but showed much more spirit and poise on Saturday night. Rookie John Riad ended his first regular season with a 21 point showing, and fifth-year guard Brad Gallup played his last game in the Jack Simpson Gym, also totaling 21. The first win on Friday sealed the final playoff spot, but Saturday's game showed the Dinos can make some noise in the playoffs.
Friday night began with many of the problems the Dinos had against Trinity Western last week. Regina also employed a press, giving the Dinos less time to set up on offence. The result was a heavy reliance on jump-shooting, with only seven shots taken in the paint in the first half.
"We're trying to score against it [the press]. Friday night it looked to me like we were just trying to get the ball up court," laughed Dinos coach Cory Russell.
Luckily the Dinos were hitting their shots, and ended the game with 50 percent from beyond the arc.
The second half of Friday's game turned downright ugly. Calgary could not put Regina out of their misery, and the lead fluctuated around 10. Both teams struggled with their shooting, and generally looked unorganized. Later, with the help of Richie Gill's and Riad's drives to the basket the game opened up, giving Calgary a 13 point victory. Russell commented on his young guards.
"John and Richie are two of our best penetrators, and one thing Richie does is collapse the defence... to suck them in and throw it out [to our shooters]."
Saturday witnessed the jersey retirement ceremony for Richard Bohne, Calgary's all-time leading scorer. The Dinos seemed to capitalize on the electricity in the air, and jumped on Regina early. U of C attacked Regina's press from the opening tip, getting some easy baskets.
"Saturday we were much better [against the press]" Russell notes, adding "We got some lay-ups."
Gallup came out firing, and after five minutes U of C was up by 10 points. Unlike Friday's game, Calgary's big men got the ball inside and took advantage of Regina's smaller players. Chris Harris and Andy Stordeur combined for 28 points on 62 per cent shooting down low. According to Russell, this was a team effort.
"One of our focuses during the week was we had to have an inside presence," he said. "We thought they were going to suck in so much [on defence] when we threw it inside that we would be able to kick it out and get good shots, and that's kind of what happened."
"My job on our team is, when the ball comes inside the paint, to finish it 100 per cent of the time," added Harris. "For me, 62 per cent isn't good enough."
Gallup and Riad turned out to be the recipients of the strategy, while Stordeur and Harris combined for six assists. With 10 minutes left in the second half the Dinos were up by 20, and the game was essentially over. After the game, Russell mused on the team's performance.
"Saturday we seemed more aggressive. Whether it's because of the Richard Bohne retirement I don't know, but we certainly seemed more comfortable attacking the basket."
Meanwhile, Gallup commented on the last regular season game of his career.
"To be honest I don't know if it's really sunk in yet. We're still practicing, we're still trying to do something in the playoffs. It may not even sink in until next year. It's a part of my life that's ending."
"Maybe subconsciously you try to focus a little harder to do better on your last night," he added about his performance.
Hopefully Calgary can take the momentum from the weekend into the playoffs. The big men continue to play well, and the resurgence of Gallup and Riad has to worry the University of British Columbia. The Thunderbirds are coming off a 27-point defeat to Manitoba, a team with a losing record. Calgary's regular season games with ubc ended in a pair of 20 point defeats, but the Dinos are not the team they were three months ago. The performance of both these teams in their last games proves Calgary has a good chance of ousting ubc in their best-of-three next weekend.