This weekend, the University of Manitoba men’s basketball team played in the Canada West final four in Calgary. The Bisons opened the weekend with a thrilling 74-72 semi-finals victory over the fifth-ranked Calgary Dinos on Friday. The herd closed out the weekend with a tough 93-72 loss to the eighth-ranked Alberta Golden Bears in the Canada West finals. With the win in the semi-finals, Manitoba has clinched a spot at the U Sports final eight in Halifax that will take place from March 9 to 12.
The Bisons defeated the Dinos in a nail-biting 74-72 game to advance to their first national championship since 1985. After Manitoba’s last two playoff runs ended in Calgary, the Bisons got their revenge.
The first half was played tight defensively, but neither team was able to turn their defense into offense. Keith Omoerah was huge for the Bisons in the opening quarter, scoring all of his seven first-half points in the frame. The tight defense and Omoerah’s big seven points led to the Bisons’ 16-12 lead after the first frame. Omoerah concluded the game with a double-double of 17 points and 14 rebounds.
In the second quarter, both teams were again kept under 20 points. AJ Basi led Manitoba with 2 treys in the frame, but the home side closed the gap and a Thomas Cooper layup tied the game at 30 at halftime. Basi finished the game with a game-high 19 points, while Cooper led the home team with 17 points.
The offense was rejuvenated in the second half, with the Bisons shooting 50 per cent from the field in the half and the Dinos shooting 44 per cent. Manitoba’s attempts from beyond the arc were a major factor and they were able to find the bucket on seven of nine attempts, while Calgary could only net two treys in the half.
There were nine lead changes in the second half, eight of which came in the third quarter. The two teams set a faster pace in the half, and exchanged drives throughout. Calgary was trailing 73-71 late, when Omoerah sent Max Eisele to the line, but he was only able to sink one of the two free throws and cut the Bison lead down to just one point.
Calgary had to foul on the next possession, which sent Basi to take some free shots, but Basi was also only able to hit one free-throw to make the score 74-72. With just 13 seconds remaining, Cooper missed a game-tying shot for the Dinos. Dinos guard Mambi Diawara was able to snag the rebound, but missed on his last second attempt as well, and Manitoba hung on to win the game.
Alberta and Manitoba played a tightly-contested opening half, with the Golden Bears taking a 38-32 lead into halftime. The Bisons struggled from the field, shooting just 36 per cent, but were able to hold Alberta to 45 per cent in a half that included five lead changes. Omoerah led the herd with 11 first-half points and finished the match with a double-double of 17 points and 10 rebounds. Ilarion Bonhomme also netted seven of his 15 points in the half.
The Golden Bears’ shooters were dialed-in in the second half and shot an unbelievable 66 per cent from the field, while holding the Bisons to 37 per cent. Manitoba was able to keep pace in the third frame, with Basi knocking down seven of his 17 total points.
With Alberta up 75-66 in the fourth, they put together a 10-0 run to build a 19-point lead on Manitoba. The Bears didn’t look back from there and rolled onto a big 93-72 Canada West championship victory. Brody Clarke was an animal for Alberta, finishing with a double-double of a game-high 29 points and 12 rebounds, while Mamadou Gueye scored another 20 for the champions.