By Ali Lee,
VICTORIA – The University of Victoria Vikes men’s basketball team finally found their redemption after conceding losses to the Alberta Golden Bears in their last three meetings. The home team, sporting their Shoot for the Cure pink uniforms, dropped Alberta 74-73 on Nov. 28 at McKinnon Gym in a game that came down to the final seconds. Tonight’s Vikes basketball games also raised $3,535 for the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation.
The Vikes’ success was largely due to the shared contributions as all five starters hit double digits including Chris McLaughlin with 17, Jordan Charles with 16 and Mack Roth, Marcus Tibbs and Reiner Theil each with 12. Theil completed the double-double with 10 rebounds, while the Vikes’ accuracy from the charity stripe, at 65 per cent, seemed to save the day.
Alberta were willed by the veteran duo of Kenneth Otieno and Joel Frisen who finished the night with 22 and 21 points, respectively. Youssef Ouahrig had an important third quarter and totaled 11 points, as Alberta shot 43 per cent from the field. Victoria out-rebounded Alberta 32-20, a likely contributor to the final score.
In pre-season play Alberta dropped the Vikes 80-65 and the Golden Bears also silenced the Vikes last season beating them both in the Canada West final and the CIS bronze-medal match. Add on last weekend’s losses to Saskatchewan and first-half motive seemed very natural for the Vikes. Victoria came out with 67 per cent in shooting to lead 21-17 after the first quarter. Three triples from Alberta, two of those from Otieno, kept the game close as the two rivalry teams both conceded few turnovers, and little second-chance opportunities.
The first half was played at lightning speed as the Vikes stretched their lead to as much as 11 in the opening quarter and 16 in the second. Alberta shot just 36 per cent in the first half and were out-rebounded 18-11 despite 13 points from Otieno and 10 from Friesen.
For the Vikes, Tibbs hit two timely threes to earn eight points in the second, while six-foot-ten McLaughlin had two pivotal and-one plays to finish the half with 11 points. Alberta was 4-for-11 from distance and usual scoring plagues Youssef Ouahrig and Mamadou Gueye were held quiet. The Golden Bears looked to seven-foot-one Brett Roughead under the boards but the third year was kept entirely off the stat sheet in nine minutes of play.
It was far from over but the Vikes enjoyed a 43-29 cushion entering half time.
A break was all Alberta needed as Friesen’s quick trigger hands got him six points in the third, which were closely followed by an Ouahrig three-pointer. The 9-2 run closed the gap for Alberta, who trailed 48-41 halfway through the frame. A build up of Vikes turnovers allowed Ouahrig to come to life for Alberta to make a 13-point Victoria lead quickly diminish to a four-point advantage, 59-55, entering the final quarter. Rookie Andriy Halushko came off the pine to drop the long-range three in the final play of the third.
With three minutes to go in the game Ouahrig dished a distant bucket that gave Alberta their first lead of the game at 68-67. Otieno followed up with another three to go up by four as the Vikes started to cringe watching their lead dribble away.
The final minutes were absolutely electric as the four-straight foul shots from Roth got the Vikes back, squared at 71, while a Friesen three that went in and out had the crowd on the edge of their seats. Otieno’s ensuing drive to the hoop lifted the Golden Bears by two with less than a minute on the clock but an aggressive push to the net saw a game-tying jumper drop for McLaughlin. The crowd roared to their feet as the fifth year also drew and drained the game-winning free throw as the Vikes earned a 74-73 victory.
With the win the Vikes improve their record to 5-2, while Alberta drop 4-3. The evening’s games, in addition to the Shoot for the Cure, were also dedicated to long-time Vikes broadcaster and supporter Peter Songhurst. Songhurst lost a courageous battle to cancer this past July and Vikes teams in basketball, soccer and field hockey were on site for a special ceremony at center court.
Both Victoria and Alberta will turnaround again tomorrow, Nov. 29, for a rematch at 7 p.m. at McKinnon Gymnasium on Ken and Kathy Shields court.
ALB: 17-12-26-18: 73
UVIC: 21-22-16-15: 74
ALB: Kenneth Otieno (22), Joel Friesen (21), Youssef Ouahrig (11)
UVIC: Chris McLaughlin (17), Jordan Charles (16)