By Ardy Ramezani, Vikes Communications
(ISN) – VICTORIA, B.C. – After closing out their regular season with a home-sweep over the Trinity Western Spartans, the No. 7 ranked University of Vikes men’s basketball team return to McKinnon Gymnasium to host the No. 10 Alberta Golden Bears in the best-of-three Canada West quarter-finals series this week, Feb. 26-28.
The Vikes finished their regular season with a 15-5 record to sit at the top of the Pioneer Division tied with the Saskatchewan Huskies. Recently named Canada West MVP Chris McLaughlin and third-team all-star Marcus Tibbs were critical in capturing the end-of-season victories. Tibbs was the standout player for the Vikes both nights, topping the scoreboard twice, as he put up 29 and 20 points in the back-to-back games against the Spartans.
Graduating senior McLaughlin was also critical in the wins. The six-foot-ten forward was the turning factor in the first-leg as the Vikes were trailing for the entire first-half. His second-half force earned him 25 points that night and he carried his consistency in to the next game to post another 18 points.
McLaughlin is the Vikes’ leading scorer and is ranked second in the conference, averaging 19.8 points per game. The Ontario-native is also amongst the top-three in the conference in rebounds and field goal percentage, posting 10 rebounds per game and a boasting a 59.0 percent FG average, respectively.
Alongside the impressive McLaughlin-Tibbs combo, the Vikes have also shown the program’s depth in their last regular season games and will look to carry that into the playoffs. Second-year Jordan Charles posted double-digits in both games against the Spartans, while third-year Mack Roth and second-year Junior Sesay also contributed heavily in the offence.
Despite defeating the Vikes in the CIS bronze-medal game last year and in their meeting in the Guy Vetrie tournament, the Alberta Golden bears were downed by the Vikes at McKinnon gym earlier this season. Alberta struggled initially in the season but seem to have turned that around as they enter playoffs with an eight-game win streak. Sweeping the Pronghorns in back-to-back games, Alberta finished the regular season sitting in fourth in the Pioneer Division with a 14-6 record.
Fifth-year senior guards Kenneth Otenio and Joel Friesen closed out their regular season in Golden Bears jerseys, scoring double-digits against the Pronghorns. Friesen, who was recently named Canada West First-Team All-Star, had a game-high of 27 points while Otieno added another 15 points. Leading Alberta in scoring is Friesen, who makes the top-five in the conference with his 18.7 points per game average.
Second-year forward Mamadou Gueye and first-year rookie Sebastian Denault are also key contributors in the Alberta squad. Quebec-native Gueye is their second highest scorer and top rebounder, averaging 16.7 points and 7.3 rebounds per game, while Denault has posted an average of 7.3 points and 4.8 rebounds per game in his first season. Canada West honoured both Gueye and Denault for their performances, receiving second-team all-star and all-rookie team nods, respectively.
The Canada West Quarter-Finals are a best-of-three series. The Vikes and Golden Bears will tip off in McKinnon gym at 7 p.m. on Thursday and Friday, with the possible third game set for 7 p.m. on Saturday, if needed. Winners will advance to the Canada West Final Four, which will determine the conference champions and send the top two teams in the conference to the CIS Final 8 Championships in Toronto, Ont