Manitoba 74, Calgary 72… The Bisons continued their magical season-ending run with a solid road win in a critical spot, coming from behind late to defeat the Dinos and earn their first-ever berth at the Final 8 under Head Coach Kirby Schepp and the program’s first since 1986, breaking a 31 year drought. While Manitoba’s blistering 11 for 19 effort from three-point land sticks out, most impactful was the splendid job that 6’5″ Keith Omoerah did making life difficult for Calgary’s 6’5″ 1st Team All-Star Thomas Cooper, who shot just 6 for 24 from the floor including an 0 for 6 from downtown – part of a 3 for 24 from three night from the Dinos, who clearly missed 6’7″ Lars Schlueter‘s perimeter shooting (high ankle sprain). Omoerah, only now rounding into his high-potential as an elite defender, was also deadly from downtown, sticking in the go-ahead three midway through the fourth quarter, starting an 8-2 Manitoba run that gave Bisons a lead they would not relinquish. Calgary did have the final possession to tie or win but Cooper’s jumper missed and 6’4″ Mambi Diawara followed up with a 12 footer floater that did not go down, illiciting a celebration from the Manitoba bench. 6’0″ guard A.J. Basi made several key shots including another late three, part of a game-high 19 point effort (including 4-5 from three) to lead all scorers. Schepp shared that the victory marked “a special moment for our program”. An excellent highlight package can be found here.
Alberta 83, Saskatchewan 70… 6’7″ Mamadou Gueye‘s omission from Canada West All-Stars raised some eyebrows and the veteran from Montreal likely used the perceived snub as a part of his motivation last night as the silky smooth forward poured in a game-high 30 points including 18 after halftime as the Golden Bears controlled the game from late in the second quarter to defeat the Huskies. Gueye added 8 rebounds with several baskets at key times as Coach Barnaby Craddock returns his program to the Final 8 after a three year absence. 6’1″ guard Austin Waddoups added 20 including 6 late free throws to ice it for Alberta, by all accounts winning his match-up with Sask’s 6’2″ import guard Lawrence Moore who finished with 19 but went just 2-9 from three-point land, part of a 9 for 38 effort from beyond the arc by Sask. Bears made 7 of their first 13 shots and used a 19-4 run bridging halftime to take a 13 point lead early in the third. Huskies did climb to within 5 early in the fourth on back-to-back threes by Moore and 6’2″ freshman guard Emmanuel Akintunde but then Golden Bears ripped off an 8-0 run, holding Sask scoreless for 5 minutes to clinch it. Craddock was justifiably pleased with his troops: “Guys played with fantastic energy and I couldn’t be prouder with multiple players stepping up. Mamadou played his best game of the year at the biggest time and showed he is an all-Canadian calibre player.” Both Golden Bears and Manitoba Bisons now look to improve their Final 8 seeding tonight in the Canada West championship game.