VICTORIA – Trailing by as many as 18 points in the second quarter, the UVic Vikes men’s basketball team scrapped their way back into the game, but ultimately came up just short in an 82-80 Canada West Play-in loss to the Saskatchewan Huskies on Feb. 9
With 25 seconds left in the game, the Vikes earned their first lead of the second half when fourth-year guard Jordan Charles knocked down a three-pointer.
Alex Unruh regained the lead for Saskatchewan, but that was erased when the Vikes answered at the other end of the court on the very next possession, thanks to a jumper from Hayden Lejeune.
Down one with 11 seconds remaining, Unruh took the inbounds isolation play to the rim, made the basket, was fouled and sunk the free throw for the two-point lead.
Out of timeouts, the Vikes connected on a full-court pass from Charles to Jason Scully, but his shot hit the back of the rim and bounced out as time expired.
The loss in the single elimination play-in game ends the Vikes 2017-18 Canada west campaign, a season during which a young team had some incredibly high-highs but were ultimately unable to advance past the first-round of the playoffs for the second season in a row.
“Overall this game represented our season,” said Vikes head coach Craig Beaucamp. “There were a lot of ups and downs and it ended in a very tough loss. At this point we have no choice but to be positive about what we learned, the experience we gained and we know what we can do better for next year.”
Unruh scored a game-high 24 points for Saskatchewan, adding five assists and three rebounds. Second-year Emmanuel Atkintunde finished with 18 points and eight rebounds, while Maxwell Amoafo recorded a double-double with 15 points and 13 rebounds.
Mason Loewen and Jordan Charles led the Vikes with 20 points apiece. Loewen was one of the few Vikes hitting shots during a difficult opening half during which the Vikes scored just 24 points. Charles played a huge role in the comeback, scoring all 20 of his points in the second half and finishing with 14 rebounds on the night.
The Vikes struggled to find their rhythm throughout the entire first half, hitting just 23 per cent of their shots en route to trailing 42-24 at the end of the second quarter.
“Both teams missed shots in the first quarter and in the second we continued the same way while theirs started to fall,” said Beaucamp. “We had a tough time getting our legs going, got a little frustrated and they put us in a big hole.”
Not ready to see their season end without putting up a fight, the Vikes offence roared back to life in the third quarter. They ended the frame on a 17-2 run to cut the Huskies lead to just six points entering the fourth quarter.
“We got off to a really slow start and the room for error is slim when you do that,” said Beaucamp. “The game was won and lost more in the first 20 minutes of play than the final minute.”
That offence kept on clicking in the fourth, outscoring the Huskies 22-14 to start the quarter before the wild finish to the game put an end to the Vikes season.
“We will keep growing,” said Beaucamp “Nobody from this team graduates and the lesson learned here is about being prepared to play every game, in the playoffs even more so.”