Dan Kinvig, UFV Athletics
ABBOTSFORD, B.C. – For the second straight night, the Winnipeg Wesmen made the UFV Cascades sweat down the stretch, but this time the Cascades fended off the visitors for a 67-59 victory.
On Friday evening at the Envision Financial Athletic Centre, the Cascades had watched a 26-point lead slip away in a 90-88 overtime loss to the Wesmen. Saturday's rematch played out in eerily similar fashion, as a 21-point UFV lead in the third quarter shrank to five with just over three minutes left in regulation.
The Cascades, though, came through with a gritty effort on defence and on the boards to see the game through. They improved to 2-6, matching the Wesmen's record in Canada West play.
"A lot of déjà vu, you'd better believe it," Cascades head coach Adam Friesen said with a wry chuckle afterward. "We've seen Winnipeg come back on us too many times in the last little while. But the guys showed a lot of character – we stayed with it defensively, and stayed a lot more disciplined than we have in the past against them. We're fortunate to earn a victory down the stretch."
The Cascades came out on fire, building a 21-8 lead after the first quarter behind nine points from Andrew Morris. They maintained the double-digit lead for most of the second, and took a 32-22 cushion into halftime.
UFV forward Mark Johnson heated up in the third quarter, scoring 13 points in the frame and shooting 3-for-3 from beyond the arc. Sagar Dulay also hit a couple of treys in the third – the second of which gave the hosts a 54-33 advantage with three and a half minutes left.
The Wesmen, though, cut the deficit to 60-44 by the end of the third, and continued to chip away with Billy Yaworsky (nine points in the fourth quarter) sparking the offence.
UFV's offence, meanwhile, nearly dried up – they made just one field goal in the fourth. But after a Narcisse Ambanza free throw cut their lead to 62-57 with just over three minutes left, they came up with five consecutive defensive stops to keep Winnipeg at bay. Dulay came up big at the free throw line in the final minute, going 4-for-4 to salt away the win.
Friesen conceded that the Cascades' fourth quarter wasn't pretty, but noted that they were able to keep their turnovers down while getting back in defensive transition and keeping the Wesmen out of the paint in the halfcourt.
"Yesterday, we turned the ball over and did the other two things really poorly," Friesen said. "Tonight we were better."
The Cascades were led by fourth-year veterans Johnson (18 points) and Morris (17 points), and both players hauled down nine boards. Sophomore forward Daniel Adediran (11 points, 16 rebounds, three assists) had a huge double-double, and Dulay scored 10 points off the bench.
Ambanza led the Wesmen with 16 points, albeit on 6-of-18 shooting, and Yaworsky had 11 points. UFV limited Winnipeg to 30 per cent shooting from the field, including 5-for-33 (15.2 per cent) from beyond the arc.
"I think today we kind of said, 'Nope, not again. We're going to pull it out this time,'" UFV's Morris said afterward. "It's obviously nice to get the W.
"We're a young team, and yesterday was the first time for a lot of the guys seeing that kind of athleticism, that kind of pressure and that kind of intensity. . . . The guys were just composed today. Today we put it all together, and it was fun."
Both teams play at home next weekend in Friday-Saturday sets. The Cascades host the UBC Okanagan Heat, while the Wesmen take on the UBC Thunderbirds.