If there was a Canada West men’s basketball comeback player of the year award, Matthew Ellis of the University of Victoria Vikes would have his name all over it this season.
Ellis continued his emergence from a role player with the University of Calgary Dinos to an impact forward with the Vikes. Ellis, who began to control the middle for UVic at about mid-season, scored a career-high 39 points with 15 rebounds late Thursday night to lead the Vikes to an 82-73 victory over the UBC Thunderbirds at War Memorial Gym in Vancouver.
The six-foot-seven native of Calgary and graduate of Ernest Manning Secondary stepped away from the game for a bit after three seasons in Canada West with the Dinos. Ellis contacted UVic head coach Craig Beaucamp last spring. It has turned into a match made in Canada West heaven.
“We were looking to build up our front line and Matthew has such long arms that he can hold the ball high,” said Beaucamp.
“He is a real competitor who works hard and takes a lot of personal pride in his performance.”
Then Dominick Oliveri, who had been UVic’s most effective forward, went down with injury. Ellis stepped into the breach and hasn’t looked back and now leads UVic in scoring with 15.1 points per game.
“Matthew has really embraced the opportunity and extra playing time,” said Beaucamp.
The key victory over the Thunderbirds pushed UVic to 10-3 in conference paly, while UBC fell to 11-4.
“[War Memorial] is a tough place to play and we’ll take what we get there,” said Beaucamp.
“We were good defensively and held them down in the first half. We got off on the right foot.”
That would be needed as UBC pulled to within one late in the game but UVic held on.
“Offensively, we got the big shots when we needed them,” said Beaucamp.
Ellis was in good company up front with fellow Vikes forwards Hayden Lejeune scoring 12 points with four rebounds and Jason Scully 11 points with seven rebounds.
Six-foot-four guard Jadon Cohee, the Langley product who returned to play in his home province from NCAA Div. 1 Southern Utah of the Big Sky Conference, led UBC with 19 points.
Meanwhile, the UVic Vikes women’s team — which was ranked in the U Sports national top-10 poll earlier this season — continued its spiral downward with a fourth consecutive defeat. The Vikes fell to 7-6 in Canada West with a 100-75 loss to the Thunderbirds (11-4) on Thursday night at War Memorial.
Kristy Gallagher led UVic with 12 points while Ashlyn Day added 11 and Marissa Dheensaw and Aleah Ashlee nine each. Keylyn Filewich paced UBC with 27 points and 11 rebounds.
The annual rivalry set between UVic and UBC continues tonight on Ken and Kathy Shields Court in CARSA gym with the women’s game at 5 p.m. and men’s at 7 p.m.