by Matt Gutsch, University of Alberta Athletics
March 1, 2014, Edmonton (ISN) – The University of Victoria Vikes fell just short, March 1, in the Canada West conference championships, following an 82-77 loss to the Alberta Golden Bears on Saturday night in the closing game of the Final Four tournament at the Saville Community Sports Centre in Edmonton.
Victoria got a massive game from Canada West second team all-star Chris McLaughlin, as the 6’10” fourth-year centre put back a game high 25 points as well as 12 rebounds for his second double-double at the Final Four. Marcus Tibbs scored 21 points in the loss, including 12 off three-pointers, while Terrell Evans added 13 points, before fouling out late in the fourth, and Mack Roth came off the bench to score 10.
The Golden Bears were led by Jordan Baker’s double-double (14 points and 11 rebounds), as well as 14 points from fifth-year forward Todd Bergen-Henengouwen. Canada West rookie of the year Mamadou Gueye added 11 points in the win, as well as seven rebounds, while fourth-year guard and Canada West second team all-star Kenny Otieno chipped in with 11 points.
Alberta now advances to the CIS Final 8 tournament as the top seed from Canada West, while the Victoria Vikes will be the second seed from the west. The two programs are the most decorated in Canada West history, with the Vikes having won a record 14 conference banners in their history, while the Bears now have the second most in Canada West at 11.
On Saturday the Bears limped out of the gate against the Vikes, and stumbled across the finish line, but were at their peak in the middle two quarters, which was enough for them to collect the Canada West hardware after the final buzzer.
Although they were outscored by a combined 47-31 in the first and fourth quarters, the Golden Bears were simply electric in quarters two and three, as they outscored Victoria 51-30 in 20 minutes to win the game. The home side was white hot in the third, hitting an incredible 86% of their shots, and before that, they outscored the Vikes 22-6 in the second quarter, all of which added up to a deficit too great for Victoria to overcome in the fourth.
Tibbs, a third-yeard point guard from Seattle, got the Vikes off to a strong start by scoring nine points to lead the visitors to a 16-14 lead after one quarter of play.
The second, however, was all evergreen and gold. Three-pointers from Otieno and Youssef Ouahrig, Alberta’s first treys of the evening, got things started, and then Baker, who was named Canada West player of the year earlier in the week, added four points, as did Sarh Saffa, and Alberta was able to not only come back, but also build up a significant lead, 36-22, at half-time.
“We had a tough time scoring at times and the same time we had some breakdowns defensivley,” explained Vikes head coach Craig Beaucamp. “We righted the ship in the fourth quarter, we turned things on, started attacking and getting more aggressive. If you give a team like that a head start, it’s going to be a long road back.”
That lead increased to 22 points in the third quarter, as every Alberta shot seemed to find mesh.
With a healthy lead of 65-46 heading into the fourth, it seemed fait accompli that the Golden Bears would be celebrating with the Stan Broder trophy on Saturday night, but the Vikes quickly took some of the air out of those sails by scoring 31 points in the fourth quarter, and drawing to within five points on two occasions, to bring the game down to the wire.
All that kept Alberta from gassing the win was clutch free-throws by Joel Friesen, Bergen-Henengouwen and Baker late in the fourth, and a tough defence that simply would not allow the Vikes the points they needed.
“We have to go back to getting stops and grinding it out next week,” said Beaucamp. “Obviously we’re happy that we’re going to nationals, we’ll put this behind us quickly and get ready to go next week.”
The Vikes will now shift their focus to next weeks national, where they and the Golden Bears will head to Ottawa and the CIS Final 8 championship tournament, contesting for the W.P. McGee trophy against the Carleton Ravens, the Ottawa Gee-Gees, the McMaster Marauders, as well as the champions from RSEQ and AUS, and a wild card team. The CIS tournament begins March 7.