Fourth-year guard A.J. Basi scored all of his 12 points during a game-deciding run in the middle of the game and reserve big Brett Jewell dominated inside, especially in the first half when he went 6 for 7 from the field and the Bisons built a comfortable lead as Manitoba captured the 49th Wesmen Classic championship with what turned into an easy 73-54 win over Lakehead.
Bisons were able to selectively get some transition scores early however for the most part while it was still a game Lakehead was able to keep things in the quarter-court. Unfortunately, Bisons size, experience and strength inside was too much and, without the services of star guard Henry Tan – out with a left foot injury, the Wolves could not muster much offense. As well, Manitoba’s stable of athletic guards and wings including tournament MVP 6’4″ Keith Omoerah (18 points, 5 rebounds), all-star 6’3″ Justus Alleyn and 6’0″ Ilarion Bonhomme were able to wear down the younger Lakehead backcourt and eventually work free for scores.
Lakehead kept it close for about 2 1/2 quarters with some physical, scrappy play – in fact I don’t ever recall a game that included Alex Robichaud which wasn’t on the chippy side: not surprisingly Manitoba Coach Kirby Schepp was heard pleading with the refs about “Number 21”. The Wolves defended the majority of Manitoba’s sets well, competed on the glass and limited transition. However, with no real rim protectors and, outside of Tan and 6’5″ Bakarius Dinkins, no true scoring threats, scoring the basketball against a group as deep and athletic as Manitoba became a problem as the game wore on. Both Lakehead freshman who had big games from the 3 in the first two rounds, Brandon Persad and Kache Kopec were non-factors in this game.
Wolves do have a pair of somewhat-promising posts: 6’10”? lefty Taner Parrington who they play pick-and-pop with offensively given the youngsters range out beyond the 3 and Australian Jack Bull who has some offensive skills. Unfortunately, neither show any propensity to be rim protectors nor are they impact in-traffic rebounders. This leaves much of the dirty work inside to the undersized but tough Dinkins, who plays a valiant game at both ends in the post but is limited given his size and strength. Lakehead has also not had impact wing forward Mor Menashe for virtually the entire season.
Manitoba has an experienced set of wings, a knock-down shooter and a pair of impact posts with more depth. Bisons have the roster to compete for a Final 4 spot in Canada West given their performance this week in Winnipeg.
Justus Alleyn, Manitoba; Bacarius Dinkins, Lakehead; Brandon Persad, Lakehead; Denzel Lynch-Blair, Winnipeg, Kyle Arsenault, Acadia.
Tournament MVP: Keith Omoerah, Manitoba.