By Ali Lee, Vikes Communications
(ISN) – VICTORIA, B.C. – The CIS-ranked No. 7 University of Victoria Vikes men’s basketball team persevered to overcome the No. 10 Alberta Golden Bears tonight, Feb. 27, in Game 1 of the Canada West best-of-three quarter-final series. Momentum traded back and forth but Victoria was able to come out on top, 77-62, at McKinnon Gymnasium.
The Vikes were led by this year’s conference MVP and fifth year Chris McLaughlin who had the game’s lone double-double of 20 points and 15 rebounds. Recently named Canada West Third Team All-Star Marcus Tibbs was the Vikes’ second-highest scorer with 15 points and four assists, while Grant Sitton and Junior Sesay contributed off the bench with 11 points each.
“Junior Sesay really stepped up and gave us some energy in both ends with a couple of steals, big rebounds and from there on we rolled away with it in the fourth quarter,” said Craig Beaucamp, Vikes men’s basketball head coach. “When our bench players came on they gave us positive contributions and that was really key for us today.”
Alberta had three players score in double digits including Canada West First Team All-Star Joel Friesen and fifth year Kenneth Otieno each finishing with 15 points. Point guard Youssef Ouahrig finished with 11 points and five rebounds, while second team all-star Mamadou Gueye got on the board for eight points and eight rebounds.
The opening half was a tale of two sides as the Vikes had an outstanding 12-0 run towards the end of the first quarter to enter the second with a 24-13 lead. It was a different story in the second quarter as fifth year Friesen put up eight points to cut the Vikes’ lead to as close as two points at one point.
In the opening quarter the Vikes’ starting five struggled to have their shots drop, leaving room for Sesay, Sitton and Patrick Pilato to combine for 12 of the Vikes’ opening 24 points. Both Pilato and Sitton made good from distance, while Alberta was held to just 13 points. Six-foot-seven Rav Dhaliwal was a late savior for the Bears as the third year put up two late three pointers.
In the second frame it was all Alberta as third year Ouahrig’s in tight work got the Golden Bears on track to out-score the Vikes 22-13 in the quarter. Friesen came alive to help the visitors chip away at the home side’s lead. Late in the get-going Tibbs and McLaughlin started to connect for a few timely buckets that gave Victoria a 37-35 lead entering half time.
Playoff pressure escaladed in the third quarter as both teams had their moments of physicality that landed them in foul trouble. It was back and forth buckets as Tibbs and McLaughlin got the Vikes their first eight points, while soon after the Golden Bears went on a 9-0 run including grabbing their first lead of the game at 48-47. Alberta continued to lead throughout the end of the third until Sesay hit a shot clock buzzer-beating three from the corner to tie the game at 53. On Alberta’s last possession Friesen turned the ball over and Pilato fed Sesay to give the Vikes a 55-53 lead entering the fourth.
The Vikes got back to their groove in the fourth despite some quality outside shooting from Alberta’s Otieno and Friesen. Victoria out-scored Alberta 22-9 in the fourth to eventually come out on top with a final score of 77-62.
“Chris is our anchor in the offensive and defensive end for us and Marcus does so much for us in creating penetration, making shots and distributing the ball,” said Beaucamp about his two conference all-stars. “Other guys stepped in though and played rolls and got us through down the stretch. It was a very good team win for us tonight.”
The Vikes and Golden Bears will square off tomorrow, Feb. 27, at 7 p.m. PST at Victoria’s McKinnon Gym for Game 2 of the Canada West best-of-three quarter-finals series. A win for Victoria will advance them to the Final Four, while Alberta will need to salvage a split tomorrow and look to take the series in Game 3, set for Feb. 28, if needed, at 7 p.m. All games are broadcast with live video and stats at uvic.canadwest.tv.
“Tomorrow is a whole different affair once you get past the first game,” added Beaucamp. “Now it becomes a bit of a marathon. We have to be prepared to be as good if not better to get a result tomorrow.”
ALB: 13-22-18-9 : 62
UVIC: 24-13-18-22 : 77
ALB: Kenneth Otieno (15), Joel Friesen (15), Youssef Ouahrig (11)
UVIC: Chris McLaughlin (20), Marcus Tibbs (16), Grant Sitton (11), Junior Sesay (11)