Manitoba (7-9) 100, Regina (9-12) 79… Breaking open what was a tie game late in the first quarter with a the game with a 14-0 run early in the second, the Bisons dominated the Cougars as 6’7″ Joey Nitychoruk – who led 5 Bisons in double figures – went a perfect 10 for 10 from the floor and led all scorers with 21 points, adding 7 rebounds. Manitoba coach Kirby Schepp substituted liberally as Bisons built leads as high as 31 with 11 different players logging at least 12 minutes in advance of tonight’s Battle of Winnipeg championship semi-final against the host Wesmen. Note that Manitoba swept a home-and-home set with the Wesmen in early December during Canada West league play. Nitychoruk gives Manitoba a big with a strong set of offensive skills including being an able passer and a consistent finisher around the rim, complementing the strength and toughness of 6’7″ Brett Jewell.
Bisons shot 57% in the first half, getting to the rim at will against an undersized Cougars front line that offered little protection at the rim. Conversely, Manitoba was credited with 7 blocks on the evening. 6’3″ wing Justus Alleyn added 15 for the Bisons, who shot 34-54 (63%) from two-point range on the evening. 6’4″ Keith Omoerah added 10 points and 8 rebounds in just 21 minutes and flashed his tremendous athletic ability around the rim with a wonderful “ally-oop” finish that initially appeared to be headed for the end-line rafters but that Omoerah caught above the rim and redirected into the hole. 6’8″ freshman James Wagner added 12 points on 4-8 shooting in 29 minutes for Manitoba.
Cougars, who played without starting 6’1″ guard Aaron McGowan (11.5 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 3.9 apg) who has not yet returned from Christmas holidays in Toronto, shot just 33% in the first half and, despite making their first two 3’s of the game when they jumped out to an early lead, finished making just 6 of their final 25 shots from downtown including several late when the game was decided. 6’4″ Sam Hillis had a career-high 19 points for Regina.
These teams meet again in early January for a pair of games in Regina as Canada West regular season play continues. Semi-final of the 50th Wesmen Classic are set as Alberta meets Victoria in the first game this evening at 6 PM CT/7 PM ET followed by Manitoba vs. Winnipeg 25 minutes after the conclusion of the first game. Bisons are the defending Wesmen Classic champions. All games are available on Canada West TV with a very strong play-by-play, colour crew.