Through 799 minutes of Canada West regular season play the UVic Vikes men’s basketball team weren’t going to the playoffs.
Grant Sitton needed just 30 seconds to change that.
Trailing by four points to the Winnipeg Wesmen with 34 seconds left and needing a victory to extend their season past tonight, Sitton put up a circus shot of a three-pointer that never looked close to going in… until it did.
The Wesmen hurried the ball back up the floor, Denzel Lynch-Blair drove the ball to the hoop and was met with a huge block from Sitton.
With time running out and the postseason on the line, there was never any question as to who was taking the shot for the Vikes. Sitton drove, rose and delivered the Vikes a playoff berth courtesy of a sweet jumper that found nothing but net.
In his last ever game inside the CARSA Performance Gym, Sitton was nothing short of brilliant in the fourth and final quarter. The lone fifth-year on the Vikes put the team on his back, scoring 15 of the teams 17 points in the deciding frame to give UVic a 79-78 victory.
“Grant made a heck of a couple of plays, the big thing is we found a way to get a couple stops to give ourselves a chance for Grant’s heroics with four seconds left,” said Vikes head coach Craig Beaucamp.
In a game played as well as this one was, it’s always cruel that a team has to come up on the losing end. The Wesmen battled hard throughout the contest, coming back from an early ten-point deficit to lead through much of the fourth quarter.
“It was a really good game, playoff type game, playoff type atmosphere and the crowd was great,” said Wesmen head coach Mike Raimbault. “I thought both teams played really hard and kudos to them.”
Sean Tarver shot the lights out, scoring 23 points while going five-for-seven from beyond the arc.
“He was good, especially in the first half, he got us back in the game when Victoria was hitting a lot of shots early and that’s what we need him to do for our group,” said Raimbault of Tarver. “He brings a lot of emotion to our team.”
Narcisse Ambanza added another 19 points and Denzel Lynch-Blair rounded out the scoring for the Wesmen with 18 of his own.
Sitton scored a game-high 27 points, picked up 12 rebounds and added four blocks on Senior Night. Hassan Abdullahi scored 12 points and was tough on defence all night, recording three steals. Firs-year guard Scott Kellum added 11 points in his 35 minutes of action.
“I didn’t say anything to the guys but we knew we had to win or we were out,” said Beaucamp. “Tough to sweep Winnipeg who is a really quality team, we needed it and I’m really proud of the guys.”
With the loss the Wesmen finish the season at 12-8 and must now play the waiting game to see who they will host in the first round of the playoffs.
“Tonight was a possession basketball game and that should be the way it is for the rest of the way,” said Raimbault. “We have to use it as a learning experience and hopefully we grow from this as a group.”
The Vikes finish the season with a record of 9-11, good enough for 11th in the conference. They will now get ready to head out on the road to take on the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns in a best-of-three series on February 17-19.