By Ardy Ramezani, Vikes Communications
(ISN) – VICTORIA – For five seasons, fans and opposing teams have been familiar with the University of Victoria Vikes’ towering six-foot-ten men’s basketball forward, Chris McLaughlin. But as the No. 7-ranked UVikes looks to take on Trinity Western in a double-header at home this weekend, Feb. 13-14, nostalgia will also set in as the senior captain will close his last regular season games in a Vikes uniform.
The end of McLaughlin’s university career with the Vikes also falls in an iconic time as this weekend marks the end of a long era for Vikes Athletics at McKinnon Gymnasium. The back-to-back games will be the final regular season basketball games to played on Ken and Kathy Shields court as all Vikes varsity programs prepare to move in to their soon-to-be called home, the Centre of Athletics, Recreation and Special Abilities (CARSA) this spring.
Last week, the Vikes men were on the road in Manitoba as they faced Brandon in a two-game series. The Vikes clinched an 80-71 victory in their first match thanks to a phenomenal game from McLaughlin. The fifth-year posted a season-high 32 points and 17 rebounds while fourth-year point guard Marcus Tibbs also logged 19 points. However, the Vikes were upset the following night as Brandon managed to steal the game 77-76 to drop the Vikes’ record to 13-5. The Vikes are tied with Saskatchewan at the top of Canada West standings and will need to wins in both games this weekend to secure hosting rights to the Canada West quarter-finals.
Although McLaughlin was not able to repeat his season-high performance in the last game against Brandon, the Ontario-native leads the Vikes in scoring and rebounds, averaging 19.2 points and 10.2 rebounds per game. He has been a pivotal player for the Vikes ever since he settled as a starting player in the 2012-13 season and helped the Vikes capture their first CIS national championship appearance since 2006. He helped the Vikes appear at the national stage again last year, where the Vikes finished fourth.
The Vikes will also graduate fifth-year transfer from Bishop’s University, Jeremy Leonard-Smith. In 2013, Leonard-Smith was named a RESQ First-Team All-Star for helping the Gaiters reach the RESQ conference final. After four years with Bishop’s Leonard-Smith will close out his CIS career a Vike.
Trinity Western sits second-to-last in the Pioneers Division with a 2-16 record. Last week, the Spartans hosted Winnipeg in back-to-back games; losing their first game 93-76 and stealing a 97-84 win the next night. That victory ended their 10-game losing streak and captured their first home win of the season. Fifth-year senior Denny McDonald logged a career high of 33 points along with 10 rebounds. Also joining McDonald in double-digit scoring were fifth-year Justin Bakuteka and fourth-year Taylor Heinrich, logging 19 and 18 points, respectively. Bakuteka leads Trinity Western in points, averaging 16.6 points per game.
The Vikes and Spartans will tip off on Friday, Feb. 13 at 8 p.m. and then again on Saturday, Feb. 14 at 7 p.m. Graduating seniors will be honoured on Feb. 13, while the Vikes Athletics “McKinnon Era” celebration will take place throughout Feb. 14.