By Ali Lee, Vikes Communications
(ISN) – VICTORIA, B.C. – The University of Victoria Vikes men’s basketball team had to dig deep to fend off a relentless Winnipeg squad on Jan. 17 at McKinnon Gym. Following a near two-hour delay due to a facility power outage, the Vikes found the energy to drop the Wesmen, 78-76, and split the weekend with their Canada West rivals. The CIS No. 5 Vikes improve to a 9-3 record while the Wesmen fall to 6-6.
The Vikes were led by fifth year Chris McLaughlin, with his second double-double of the weekend – 16 points and 12 rebounds. Ontario native Patrick Pilato had great energy on the night and was rewarded with 14 points, four assists and four rebounds. Reiner Theil also logged double digits with 14 points.
Winnipeg, despite trailing by 13 in the third, kept themselves within reach thanks to the 21-point performance from senior Mark McNee and an additional 13 and 12 points, respectively, from Jelane Pryce and Travis Kahn.
“It was a trying weekend for us in a lot of ways,” said Vikes head coach Craig Beaucamp, whose squad was forced to compete without starting point guard Marcus Tibbs this weekend. “I am proud of the guys though. It was definitely a good character win.”
It was the start they wanted as the Vikes held Winnipeg to just four points in the opening four and a half minutes of play. Following their 7-2 run, Winnipeg went on a tear of their own, scoring seven unanswered points to cut UVic’s lead to 13-9. Moments later Winnipeg forward Pryce had a crafty up-and-under that got the game squared at 15. A long two from McLaughlin put the Vikes back on track to end the opening quarter 22-18.
At half time the score was tied at 43 and very indicative of the second quarter of play. The lead was traded twice, while the game was also tied three times. Winnipeg fifth year McNee used his six-foot-six size to his advantage, putting up 10 of his 15 first-half points in the second quarter, while teammate Krahn had two key three pointers for the Wesmen. The Vikes had a surge of scoring from rookie Kai Greene, who finished the half with eight points and six assists.
Pilato was a third-quarter spark for Victoria, as the second year had two opening treys drop to get the Vikes’ energy up on route to out-score the Wesmen 20-12 in the third. Fouls for both teams slowed the tempo down but the Vikes managed to get out ahead, up 63-55 entering the fourth.
With less than one minute to go Winnipeg’s Krahn drained his third three of the night to cut Victoria’s lead to 75-70. Immediately following Theil fouled Krahn on a distance shot, putting the fifth year at the line for three. With all three foul shots dropping and the score at 75-73 for the Vikes, the final 32 seconds were nonetheless intense.
McLaughlin’s solo-effort jumper re-opened a two-possession game but Winnipeg’s McNee hit a three from the top of the arc to cut it down to a one-point game. Pilato put in a free throw with seconds on the clock as the Wesmen pushed for a three-point play that hit the rim and bounced out to seal the game 78-76 in favour of the Vikes. The Saturday thriller leaves the weekend split and the Vikes with a 9-3 record in the Canada West and the Wesmen with a 6-6 record.
“Pat Pilato had a great bounce-back game for us tonight at point,” highlighted Beaucamp. “Chris was a warrior all weekend on the boards and Reiner was a force tonight. You could see it in (McLaughlin and Theil’s) eyes that they weren’t going to let us lose two-straight at home tonight.”
Up next the Vikes will head to Calgary for a Dinos double header on Jan. 23-24. Meanwhile, the Wesmen will have a home-and-home series with Brandon, first on the road on Jan. 22 and then at home on Jan. 24. Games will all be streamed with live video and stats at canadawest.tv.
UVIC: 22-21-20-15 : 78
WPG: 18-25-12-21 : 76
UVIC: Chris McLaughlin (16), Patrick Pilato (14), Reiner Theil (12)
WPG: Mark McNee (21), Jelane Pryce (13), Travis Krahn (12)