Eoin Colquhoun, Pronghorns Athletics
Lethbridge – While it was closer than Coach Hansen and the rest of the Lethbridge Pronghorn men's basketball team would have liked it, the 'Horns survived a scare to beat the UBC Okanagan Heat 75-71 and punch their ticket to the Canada West playoffs.
The win improves the Pronghorns to 11-6 on the season and they hold a one game lead on the Saskatchewan Huskies and Winnipeg Wesmen for fourth, but both schools hold two games in hand on the Pronghorns. With the loss the Heat fall to 2-13 but they gave the Pronghorns everything they could handle on this night.
Turnovers plagued the Pronghorns all night as they turned the ball over 22 times in the game leading to 15 Heat points, but the Pronghorns were resilient and grinded out a less than picturesque victory. If not for an exceptional night from the free throw line the outcome could have been very different. The Pronghorns went 26 for 31 from the charity strip, while the Heat only got to the line seven times all night.
With point guard Dejon Burdeaux out of the lineup due to an illness, the conference's third leading scorer Elliot Sentance stepped up and made critical shots when his team needed it and led the 'Horns with 15 points. Freshman Brett Warren got the start in Burdeaux's absence looked poised all night and chipped in with 13 points.
Never hitting double digits before in his first year with the Heat, Matt Lafontaine had a near flawless night to lead all scorers with a career high 22 points. Lafontaine was 7 for 11 from the field, including a scorching 6 for 8 from behind the arc, and was huge down the stretch to keep his team within striking distance. Buzz Truss picked up 12 points and Austin Penrose and Aldrich Berrios each had 10 points apiece. Penrose completed the double-double with 11 boards.
A low scoring opening half saw the Pronghorns hold a slim 16-14 lead at the first recess and they carried the same two point lead into half time, 31-29.
In the second half, the tight game continued with the Pronghorns and Heat going blow for blow. Mini runs by the Pronghorns would flirt with a double digit lead but every time it looked as if the Pronghorns would pull away the Heat would answer back. The Pronghorns carried a 51-44 lead into the final frame.
The 'Horns would push the lead in the fourth to as many as eight in the early going but Lafontaine nearly willed his team into the lead with 11 of his 22 points coming in the fourth, including his sixth three pointer with just over a minute to play to bring the Heat within four and setting up a tense final minute for the Pronghorns.
Both Berrios and Penrose hit shots late to bring the Heat within one possession in the dying seconds but Sentence and Mike Pierzchala hit four free throws to run the Heat out of time.
On the night, the Heat outshot the Pronghorns 42.6% to 41.2% but rebounding and free throws propelled the Pronghorns to the win. The Pronghorns out rebounded the Heat 41 to 27.
The Pronghorns will wrap up the home portion of their Canada West schedule tomorrow night, hosting the Heat in the weekend finale, tip is set for 7:00pm. Catch all the action onwww.canadawest.tv.