CALGARY – When it seemed as though the game was over, the University of Calgary Dinos star took over late in the Canada West bronze medal game, as the home team defeated the Saskatchewan Huskies 111-106 in overtime.
Thomas Cooper scored 21 of his team-high 32 points in the fourth quarter and overtime, as Calgary came back from trailing for much of the game, including being down 15 late in the third quarter.
With the victory, the Dinos finish as medallists for the second straight year after taking gold in 2016, and keep their hopes alive of advancing to the U SPORTS Final 8 tournament next week in Halifax. The selection committee meets Sunday following the Atlantic championship game.
After a heartbreaking semi-final defeat to Manitoba Friday night, the Dinos certainly looked like a team with a quick turnaround playing in the afternoon, as Saskatchewan jumped out to a 26-9 lead in the first. Then Calgary woke up with an 11-0 run and trailed 26-20 at halftime.
Calgary continued to cut into the lead and eventually took it, with a David Kapinga three giving them a 38-34 lead with just over four minutes left in the third. The Dinos were still up at the 1:45 mark, but then it was Saskatchewan going on a 9-0 run to finish the half, capped off by an incredible Lawrence Moore three to give the Huskies a 51-43 lead.
Saskatchewan continued to maintain a two-possession lead throughout the third quarter and every time Calgary seemed poise to go ahead, the visitors always responded.
In the fourth, it seemed as though Calgary would never get over the hump and another Moore three gave the Huskies an eight-point lead with 3:45 remaining. They could’ve given in, but Dan Vanhooren’s club refused to go away despite a depleted roster, Friday night’s defeat and the short time to prepare.
Jhony Verrone would get back-to-back dunks in the open floor to make it 91-87 with just over two minutes left – and then Cooper put the team on his back.
After a couple of free throws for Matt Forbes, Calgary’s first-team all-star scored the Dinos’ last eight points, including a jump shot with 44 seconds left to tie it at 95.
Calgary would get a stop and possession with just 1.5 seconds remaining and contested Cooper three missed, sending the two teams into overtime.
The Huskies would make the first shot of the extra session, but Cooper continued his surge, scoring five straight, followed by a Verrone three to make it 103-97.
Saskatchewan kept it close, but Calgary held on for the five-point win, as Cooper ended with 32, seven rebounds and five assists, joined by Verrone (16), Mambi Diawara (17), David Kapinga (21) and Connor Foreman (10) in double-figures.
The Huskies were led by Moore who ended with 33 points, including five threes, with the rest of the five starters scoring double-figures. A night after shooting just 3-23 against Manitoba, Calgary finished 13-29 from three and scored 25 points off of Saskatchewan’s 18 turnovers.