Vikes catch fire when it matters to keep playoff chances alive against Winnipeg

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VICTORIA – Trailing by as many as ten points deep into the third quarter, the UVic Vikes men’s basketball rallied late to secure an important 86-78 victory over the Winnipeg Wesmen inside the CARSA Performance Gym on February 10.

“We were resilient tonight, that’s what I’m most proud of the guys for,” said Vikes head coach Craig Beaucamp. “We got down by ten and we just found ways to keep fighting back, there was no quit.”

The win keeps the Vikes right in the thick of the playoff hunt, as they are one of four teams tied for tenth place at 8-11 in the Canada West conference, with only twelve spots available in the post-season.

“We knew we had to get one win this week, but we just can’t worry about anybody else and try to win out ourselves,” said Beaucamp. “We had a little extra effort tonight to get some loose balls and rebounds that we needed down the stretch.”

With the loss the Wesmen fall to 12-7 on the year, tied for fifth in the conference and just one spot back of a first round bye in the playoffs.

“I thought they played with a greater sense of urgency than we did,” said Wesmen head coach Mike Raimbault. “They did a great job of getting on the offensive glass and when they had opportunities they stepped in and knocked down their three-pointers.”

Fifth-year Vike Grant Sitton led the way offensively, scoring 25 points on nine-for-18 shooting from the field. Scott Kellum continued to impress in his rookie season as he was good for 21 points and five assists. Hassan Abdullahi was a force down low, scoring 10 points and picking up 14 rebounds.

Sean Tarver was on fire all game long for the Wesmen, coming off the bench to score 22 points on six-for-nine shooting from beyond the arc. Narcisse Ambanza had 19 points in 36 minutes on the floor and Denzel Lynch-Blair chipped in with 11 points and six assists.

“It varies from night to night but we have a good number of guys that are capable of going in and scoring points for sure,” said Raimbault.

Down by ten in the middle of the third quarter, the Vikes somehow managed to find an extra gear. Shots started to fall and the defence was able to string together some stops as the team put together a 16-4 run to end the third and go into the fourth and final quarter with the lead.

“We made the extra pass tonight, they were trapping ball-screens and trapping us in the post,” said Beaucamp. “We did a good job of moving the ball out of those traps to find the open guy and that was the difference on the offensive side.”

The Wesmen came out hungry for the win in the fourth and brought the lead down to just three points with three minutes left to go, but the Vikes had an answer.

Back-to-back three-pointers by Sitton and Graeme Hyde-Lay restored the Vikes advantage, and from there they were able to hold on for the victory.

“Graeme came on, hit some shots, made some plays and was a spark for us,” said Beaucamp.

There will be a lot on the line when these same two teams do battle tomorrow night at 7 p.m. in Victoria.

For the Vikes the chance to secure a playoff spot remains, while for the Wesmen a win would go far as they continue to fight for playoff positioning.

“It’s important for us to be mature, look at the things that happened tonight and make some adjustments,” said Raimbault. “We need to do a better job on the things we can control and we expect it to be another playoff type environment.”

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