The University of Victoria Vikes men’s basketball team came up short in their quest for the Canada West title on Saturday night, and their 72-69 loss to the host UBC Thunderbirds could come back to haunt them next weekend at the CIS national championship tournament.
With Vikes big men Chris McLaughlin and Pierce Anderson getting in foul trouble early at War Memorial Gymnasium on Saturday night, UVic’s offence sputtered in the first half and the Thunderbirds took advantage. McLaughlin, fresh off a double-double the night before in the Canada West semifinals, came flying out of the gate and scored nine points in the first three minutes. But the 6-foot-10 Oakville, Ont., native picked up his second foul midway through the first quarter and was forced to sit on the bench for the rest of the half and watch UBC finish the first half on a 17-7 run and 39-29 lead.
But with McLaughlin back in the second half, the Vikes chipped away and cut the lead to three in the dying seconds and even got the ball in the hands of senior Brandon Dunlop for a buzzer-beating three-point shot, but it bounced off the rim, giving the T-Birds their second Canada West title in three years.
Senior Doug Plum led the way for UBC with 22 points. McLaughlin finished with 21 points while not playing the entire second quarter.
Even though both teams had already booked their tickets to the CIS Final 8 tournament in Ottawa March 8-10, there was more than just the Canada West gold medal on the line. Seeding for nationals was also up for grabs, and Saturday’s loss could see the Vikes, ranked No. 8 in the CIS going into the weekend, draw the Carleton Ravens, the No. 1-ranked team in the country, in next Friday’s national quarter-finals. UBC, ranked fourth in the CIS coming into the weekend, will have a much more favourable first-round game in Ottawa.
The victory was the fifth Canada West title for UBC head coach Kevin Hanson.
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