BRANDON, MB – After 46 years and thousands of basketball games, the final Bobcat basketball games will be played in the Brandon University Gymnasium this weekend. The Bobcats will host the Lethbridge Pronghorns in the ‘Cats final home games of the 2011-2012 Canada West season, as BU prepares to open the brand-new Healthy Living Centre in the fall of 2012.
Opened in 1965, the BU Gymnasium has been the site of incredible basketball games and numerous unforgettable moments. Long-time men’s basketball coach Jerry Hemmings has countless memories from the BU Gym, after leading the Bobcats to 734 wins in his 28 years as head coach, including both a memorable win and a notable loss.
“I remember when we played the University of Manitoba back in 1971 and played to a record low score,” says Hemmings. “We were leading 13-12 before Manitoba won it late in the fourth quarter off a steal. They won that game by a final score of 14-13, but even though it was a loss, that’s a game that always sticks out.”
“I also remember when we hosted the Mid-West Regional Championships for the first time in 1983,” Hemmings adds. “In our first game we were playing Dalhousie, and we were down by eight points. We battled back, then with Earl Roberts hit a last second buzzer-beater to win the game. The gym was so loud it was incredible. It was a great weekend of basketball for Brandon, the south-western Manitoba region and all of Manitoba.”
Moments like those are just a few of the many that have been created in the BU Gymnasium over the years, and similar memories are shared by those who have worked in the gym for years.
“I remember when the men’s basketball team was playing Manitoba in the late 80’s in the GPAC final”, says Steve Dzubinski, BU’s athletic therapist for the past 35 years. “They beat us Friday night, then we won Saturday, making the final game of the series on Sunday afternoon. That Sunday game was phenomenal. The Bobcats prevailed in an incredible game, and the crowd was raucous.”
“Despite the thunderous crowd my infant daughter slept through it. Moments like that will stay with me forever,” adds Dzubinski.”Very few visiting teams like to play here. A crowd of 500 can be deafening. That’s why some people hate this place, while others love it.”
The BU Gymnasium was the home gym of four national championship basketball teams, and was home to BU’s former field hockey, soccer, and badminton teams among others. The gym has also been home to BU’s volleyball teams since re-joining the program in 2005. Both BU’s men’s and women’s volleyball teams have quickly ascended to the national stage and rank among the best in the country.
While the recent successes of Bobcat athletics is commendable, many fans will remember the BU Gymnasium for days gone by and the accomplishments of former athletes and teams.
“It’s so hard to pick just one memory as your favourite because there are so many,” adds Hemmings. “In the late 1980’s there would be line-ups out the door and down the street of people waiting to get into the gym for our games. We’ve been fortunate to have had so many great players and teams over the years and there are a lot of great memories, but like everything it must come to an end.”
This weekend’s games will also be the Bobcats “Shoot for the Cure” fundraiser. On Friday, Jayla Bousquet will shoot free-throws at half-time of the men’s game to raise funds for the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, while Chantel Gaslard will shoot Saturday. Both players are currently collecting pledges leading up to the weekend.
Saturday night’s games will also be Senior’s Night, as the women’s basketball team will say goodbye to graduating player Jayla Bousquet while Kyle Vince and Donovan Gayle will play their final games for the men’s team.
Brandon University’s volleyball teams will be the final Bobcat teams to play in the BU Gymnasium as they wrap up the Canada West regular season against the Alberta Golden Bears and Pandas on February 11 & 12.