While football fans hunkered down with a bowl of Doritos in preparation for the tight, tight pants of Superbowl Sunday, the Dinos men's basketball team stole the Steelers' thunder in another epic battle on the court.
Our men have kept us guessing all season--taking our hopes from the heart of Hurricane Katrina to fish-infested Newfie wharfs--and they dragged us kicking and screaming back to southern Alberta Fri., Feb. 3 to avenge losses to the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns suffered earlier this season.
The 'Horns have traditionally done very well on their own turf. Friday began much the same. But despite the 'Horns' 50-47 half-time lead, the Dinos came back to balance the attack with Chris Wright, Brian Finniss, Robbie Sihota and Josh Feist heading up the gang.
Wright doubled with top billing for points and rebounds, grabbing the hoop and inspiring hope for the Dinos to gain standing on the Pronghorns. The men gained eight points in just a minute and a half during the final moments of the game with enough energy to make the crowd dizzy.
But sudden nausea overcame them as the 'Horns slipped in a jump shot that sealed the game at 76-74. That doesn't hurt so bad--except a loss is really a loss right now.
"We got pretty choked right after the game on Friday," Wright admitted. "But, you know, we didn't lose to a team, we lost to ourselves."
Clearly, we were in for a real rumble in the Jack Simpson Gymnasium Sat., Feb. 4, and that is exactly what fans experienced. Drunk on the excitement of Senior's Night and hung over from a near-victory the previous eve, the Dinos played to win.
"The guys were pretty motivated to play," explained a calm Wright. "In my five years, I've never lost on a Senior's Night."
The first swoosh of the game was a beautiful three-point shot from Cody Darrah, followed five minutes later by a dunk done the Wright way. Ross Bekkering duplicated Wright's high scoring from the previous night, gaining the highest point total with 18 and tying the captain's 11 lion-hearted boards.
Meanwhile, on another part of the court, Darrah arguably played his best game yet, with three-point shots contributing to his offensive domination. With a 41-38 Dinos half-time lead, the beginning of the second half was a defensive final exam for both teams. Each team scored only 15 points in a decisive and sweaty 10 minutes. Darrah pressed the 'Horns' offense relentlessly.
"I just figured I'd better pick it up--play hard defense and just let the offense take it from there," he explained.
The last five minutes of the game showed Finniss fashioning the foul line, giving the Dinos a razor edge, and the last moments were the best the fans could get, with a schooner-sized three-point shot from Darrah.
A domino effect of foul shots brought a 76-71 Dinos victory.
However, the weekend had a hint of bitterness as Wright, the team's captain, faced his last regular season game in the Jack. The only graduating senior of the traditional Senior's Night, Wright leaves his knowledge to an energetic team that he has every faith in. Head coach Dan Vanhooren described Wright to a crowd of 1,863 people as a leader on the court and in the classroom who displays an unprecedented commitment to the game and to those he comes in contact with.
The Dinos have won four of their last five games and prospects are rising like yeast. They fight for their playoff spot against the University of Saskatchewan Huskies Feb. 11-12.
"I think we have a pretty good chance," promised Sihota, who is recovering from a knee injury. "We've been playing together more as a team and our defense has gotten a lot better."
As the Dinos meet the Huskies, the Pronghorns meet the University of Alberta Golden Bears. The Bears are currently second in the central division with the Dinos two points back in third and Pronghorns another two points behind in fourth. Although the Huskies have already clinched the top spot in the division, the remaining three teams can still end up in any order. Because only the top three teams go to playoffs, this predicament puts the pressure on all of the teams to succeed. Only time will tell.