With pre-season forecasts that had his Manitoba program in the discussion for hosting the Canada West Final 4 fleeting by the week, Kirby Schepp‘s Bisons entered arguably their most challenging weekend in his coaching era with a 2-6 Canada West record and facing a pair of games against cross-town rival Winnipeg Wesmen, who with a solid start had put themselves in that same Final 4 discussion. Consider the Bisons solidly back into the Canada West upper-echelon mix after a weekend sweep that was culminated in a dramatic comeback last night at the Duckworth Center before a raucous crowd that illustrated the strong potential for the popularity of Canadian university sports in Winnipeg. Bisons, who played without 6’3″ Justus Alleyne who was injured late in Thursday’s game, trailed for virtually the entire game last night but got some big plays out of fifth-year 5’11” shooting guard A.J. Basi and ultimately a three by 6’4″ Keith Omoerah that gave Manitoba a 2 point lead late. Later Wesmen 6’5″ Sean Tarver tied the game with about 30 seconds to play setting up the final flurry that resulted in reserve 6’7″ Joey Nitychoruk getting fouled on a put-back with just 0.5 seconds remaining. The Lakehead transfer made the first free throw and then missed the second on purpose, allowing the clock to run out and sending the Bisons sideline and healthy fan support in that section into a frenzy. Omoerah finished with 21 points including 13 in the second half while Basi shook off the tough start with 13 of his 18 after halftime. Schepp was pleased with the win: “Great win. Nice to see some young guys step up. We had to play three first year guys more than normal to make up for Justus and they were solid.” Bisons now take some momentum into the second half of the season with a favorable schedule that sets up for a move higher in the Canada West standings and back toward what many thought this group would be prior to the start of the season… Alberta and UBC remain undefeated as the Golden Bears crushed MacEwan yesterday afternoon at home 100-78, jumping to a 56-37 halftime lead on the heels on 6-9 shooting from 3 and 54% from the field overall in the first 20 minutes. 6’7″ Brody Clarke finished with 22 points – 17 before halftime – 8 rebounds and 5 blocks as Coach Barnaby Craddock’s group continues to grow and mature with a solid if not big time point guard in 6’1″ Austin Waddoups, a long, athletic all-conference-type wing in 6’7″ Mamadou Gueye and Clarke, who is only a sophomore and remains on path to grow into an All-Canadian-esque post player at both ends. UBC dominated UBC-O twice at home this weekend to also remain undefeated with their pair of top-end players in 6’9″ Conor Morgan and 6’6″ lefty Jordan Jensen-Whyte. Something will have to give at the top of Canada West early in January as Alberta visits UBC on 13th and 14th January 2017. Prior to that however, Golden Bears open their calendar 2017 with a home-and-home set against Calgary Dinos… Dinos remained a one-loss team after finishing a weekend sweep over cross-town rival Mount Royal Cougars with a 109-92 victory as 6’5″ Thomas Cooper had 32 points. Cougars again played without 6’7″ Brett Layton who injured his ankle early in Thursday’s tight loss to Calgary.
For more Canada West commentary, look for future posts featuring our wonderful Southern Alberta correspondent Wellsie and of course we always encourage you to reference the great work of Wayne Thomas on Canada West Hoops.