Patience is a virtue. It also wins basketball games.
The University of Victoria Vikes men refused to get into a run-and-gun game with the high-powered Manitoba Bisons and stuck to their half-court game plan to pull out a 76-70 victory in Game 1 of their Canada West best-of-three quarter-final series Friday night at McKinnon Gym.
The two teams played neck-and-neck until the last four minutes of the fourth quarter when the Vikes went on a 10-2 run to take control.
“The good news is we found a way to stick with it, persevere and get the W which is most important, but we’ll have to be a lot better [tonight] if we want to get another win,” said Vikes head coach Craig Beaucamp, whose team was 16-6 in the regular season and has now won 10 of its last 11 games.
With the game tied 57-57 half-way through the fourth quarter, the Vikes started to find success with their half-court offence, thanks to the shooting of Michael Acheampong, Reiner Theil and the slick Terrell Evans. Theil hit a trio of three-pointers, while Acheampong added a pair. Evans racked up another double-double with 15 points and 12 rebounds.
The game was sloppy at times, with lots of turnovers and fouls. “It was a competitive game but I don’t think either team was particular sharp,” Beaucamp said. “We were on reading week this week, and so are they, and I think both teams thought they were still on it.”
The Bisons came into the game with the fourth-ranked offence in Canada West, averaging 83 points per game. Star point guard Stephan Walton tried his best to lead Manitoba’s run-and-gun offence and, while the Vikes’ defence bent at times, it did not break.
“We know they like to run that up-and-down-the-court offence so we tried our best to slow it down to a half-court game, and once we got on a roll, we were able to stick with that,” said Vikes big man Chris McLaughlin, who, along with teammate Pierce Anderson, had his hands full with talented Bisons centre Yigit Ozsayiner.
Ozsayiner, who hails from Istanbul, Turkey, had his usual strong game in the paint, but never got on track with the smooth outside shot that’s also in his arsenal. He finished with 13 points but was 6-of-22 from the floor.
“Yigit didn’t shoot very well tonight, for sure,” said Bisons coach Kirby Schepp, whose team was 14-8 in the regular season and has lost three straight games.
McLaughlin finished with 15 points, while Anderson added 10. Sharp-shooters Dunlop and Theil each had nine points.
Guard Jonar Huertas led Manitoba with 16 points.
“They’re a very good shooting team and they started to really get going in the fourth and that spelled trouble for us,” added Schepp. “We’re going to have to try some different things [today] and hopefully get a better outcome.”
Game 2 tips off at 7 p.m. at McKinnon Gym. If a third game is necessary, it will go Sunday at 3 p.m. at McKinnon. The series winner advances to next weekend’s Canada West Final Four tournament.
In other Canada West men’s action, the Fraser Valley Cascades, fourth in the Pacific Division upset the Prairie Division winning Saskatchewan Huskies 83-64 in Game 1 of their series.
n In Canada West women’s playoffs, the visiting Vikes had trouble from start to finish with the No. 2-ranked team in the country, the Regina Cougars. The Cougars used a boisterous home crowd to help spark them to a 70-57 win.
Five Cougars hit double digits, including Lindsay Ledingham’s game-high 15 points.
The Vikes were led by senior forward Chelsea McMullen’s 11 points, while Debbie Yeboah chipped in 10.
The two teams will play Game 2 of the best-of-three series today at 5 p.m. Pacific.
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