By Ali Lee, with files from Huskies Athletics
(ISN) – SASKATOON, Sask. – With a final second push at the Physical Activity Complex in Saskatoon, the University of Victoria Vikes men’s basketball team defeated the host-Saskatchewan Huskies, 70-67, in the Canada West championship final on Mar. 7. It was the third-straight season the Vikes appeared in the final and only win in that span.
After a comeback third quarter by the Huskies to lead 60-56 heading into the final 10 minutes, Canada West Most Valuable Player Chris McLaughlin pushed Victoria back to tie the game at 65 with 3:44 left. Third Team All-Star Marcus Tibbs put the Vikes ahead with a jumper on the next trip down the court. Two Matthew Forbes free throws tied the game back at 67 but Tibbs once again gave the Vikes the lead. A missed Saskatchewan three-pointer with seven seconds left sealed Victoria’s championship win.
“We knew it would be tough and we had got kind of handled by them three times this year already,” said Craig Beaucamp, Vikes men’s basketball head coach, whose team lost both regular season match ups and a pre-season game to the Huskies. “We got off to a decent start and then kind of gutted it out in the end. It was just a really good team win for us.”
Tibbs led the Vikes in the win tallying a game-high 25 points, while McLaughlin registered a double-double of 12 points and 10 rebounds. Mack Roth added another 10 points and nine rebounds. Reiner Theil played all 40 minutes and was tasked with the team’s toughest defensive duties of guarding Saskatchewan’s Ben Baker.
Canada West Defensive Player of the Year Baker led the Huskies in the game with a double-double of 21 points and 10 rebounds. Evan Ostertag added another 17 points from the bench for Saskatchewan, while Forbes added 13 points.
The Vikes jumped to a 7-3 lead to open the first quarter, but Huskie Mike Scott hit a three to tie the game at 20 to end the first quarter.
Victoria went on a 6-0 run to start the second frame before Ostertag hit a three from the top of the arc. Huskie shooters went cold midway through the second and the Vikes grew an 11-point lead. Baker hit a jump shot at the buzzer to cut the Vikes lead to nine at 42-31 at halftime.
A 4-0 Saskatchewan run started the second half before Roth hit a long three to restore an eight-point lead. A Forbes three started an 18-1 run by the Huskies to give Saskatchewan a 54-45 lead. Saskatchewan held a 60-56 lead after the third.
Victoria finished the night shooting at 41 per cent form the field, while Saskatchewan shot at 39.
“Getting to nationals is always the big goal and sometimes teams under estimate the value of winning a conference championship,” added Beaucamp, who wins just his second conference title in his 12-year tenure. “There is still so much pride in winning your conference as the last time we won was 2006 so, it’s definitely not easy to do. Several of the guys on the team have played through the last two silver medals so it was nice for them to get this win.”
Both teams advance to the CIS Final 8 hosted by the Ryerson University Rams March 12-15 in Toronto. With the final seeding being announced on Mar. 8. Joining Saskatchewan and Victoria will be hosts Ryerson as well as Carleton, Windsor, Dalhousie, Bishop’s and one wild card berth, also announced Mar. 8.
SASK: Ben Baker (21), Evan Ostertag (17), Matthew Forbes (13)
UVIC: Marcus Tibbs (25), Chris McLaughlin (12), Mack Roth (10)
SASK: 20-12-28-7 : 67
UVIC: 20-21-15-14 : 70