By Andy Watson, Vikes Communications
Saskatoon (ISN) - The University of Victoria Vikes men's basketball team launched a come-back of epic proportions, only to fall one point short in losing to the Fraser Valley Cascades 63-62 in the Canada West semi-final Friday night in Saskatoon.
It was heartbreak of the worst kind.
After a great run that gave built hope and faith that a comeback was possible, cutting a 19-point deficit entering the fourth and final quarter to one point in the final minute, the clock ran out on the University of Victoria Vikes
After giving up 15 straight points early in the first quarter, the Vikes trailed by as much as 25 points in the second half, digging what proved to be an insurmountable hole as the Fraser Valley Cascades won the battle of Pacific Division squads 63-62 in the Canada West Semifinal at the Canada West Final 4 tournament in Saskatoon, Sask., on Friday night.
With the win, the No. 4 nationally ranked Cascades advance to the CIS Final 8 national tournament in Halifax, March 9-11, and tomorrow's Canada West championship at 6 p.m. PST against either the No. 7 ranked Alberta Golden Bears who defeated the Saskatchewan Huskies 89-73 in the other Canada West semifinal.
The No. 5 ranked Vikes will have to win the Canada West third-place game on Saturday night at 4:15 p.m. PST against Saskatchewan to have a shot to advance to nationals, needing to be the recipient of an at-large berth to be determined as the wild-card team for that Final 8 CIS tournament in Halifax. However, the Vikes will be up against several other strong contenders in their quest to earn the lone at-large berth as the No. 2 nationally ranked Lakehead Thunderwolves also lost on Friday night, 86-70 to Ryerson in an Ontario University Athletics semifinal.
Both Canada West third-place and championship games will be broadcast live on http://canadawest.tv with live stats and chat available.
"We were tight to start and we didn't make plays early," said Vikes head coach Craig Beaucamp. "But I'm proud of how valiantly we fought back."
Indeed, a courageous, never-quit effort in the fourth quarter gave the Vikes a shot, but UVic ran out of time, outscoring the Cascades 24-6 in the final 10 minutes and losing the ball with the ball in the offensive court in the final seconds.
Ryan MacKinnon of Comox, B.C., stole the ball in the final 10 seconds and ran down the court, but the Cascades swarmed him before he could get a shot off, forcing the jump-ball call with the possession arrow favouring Fraser Valley.
MacKinnon, playing what could have been his second-to-last CIS game, led the Vikes in scoring with 15 points, while fellow fifth-year senior Zac Andrus of Vashon Island, Wa., added 12.
After MacKinnon opened the scoring with a three, Fraser Valley went on a 15-0 run and led 19-7 after the opening quarter.
Led by timely scoring from Jordan Blackmon and a team-high 12-point night from Kyle Grewal, the Cascades built on that early lead and carried a 38-19 cushion into the halftime break. In fact, their balance in scoring finished with five players with nine or more points, making it tough for the Vikes to defend.
UVic could not hit open shots and Fraser Valley had everything falling their way in the first 20 minutes. The Vikes shot just 2-for-14 from three-point range in the opening half, six-for-31 from the floor.
They were much better - and desperate - in the second half. In the third quarter, the Cascades led by as much as 25 points - up 46-21 with 6:21 in the third quarter - before an 8-0 UVic run cut lead to 49-34., Joel Friesen, a first-team Canada West all-star who finished with 10 points for Fraser Valley, scored and drew a foul to end the momentum-changing run and put the Cascades up 51-34. Fraser Valley continued to lead 57-38 after three quarters.
Trailing by 19 points entering the fourth, the Vikes cut the lead to 12 points after a MacKinnon three-pointer making the score 59-47. From there, the Vikes never gave up and cut the lead to one point before running out of time.
It was a balanced effort in the comeback-bid. A three-pointer from freshman Reiner Theil of West Vancouver made it 61-52, cutting the lead to nine points. Then Andrus scored and added the and-one from the free-throw line to make it 63-55, cutting the lead to eight with 4:30 left. Forward Terrell Evans of Las Vegas then hit with four minutes left after an offensive rebound to cut the lead to six points. Then another three-pointer by MacKinnon reduced the Cascades lead to three points at 63-60.
UVic made a key defensive stop followed by a foul to send the Vikes to the bonus, and MacKinnon sank both free-throws from the line, making the score 63-62 with just under two minutes left.
On the next possession, Fraser Valley pulled down three offensive rebounds to reset the shot clock but could not score. Eventually, MacKinnon came up with the key steal on Cascades forward Jasper Moedt but time ran out on the Vikes.