Dan Kinvig, UFV Athletics
ABBOTSFORD, B.C. – The Thompson Rivers WolfPack completed an improbable rally on Friday evening at the Envision Athletic Centre, edging the University of the Fraser Valley men's basketball team 69-64 in overtime.
On the opening night of the Canada West regular season for both programs, the Cascades held a three-point lead in the dying seconds of regulation after Sukhjot Bains went 1-for-2 from the free throw line. But the WolfPack sprinted the length of the court and Enrico Nuno swished a contested three-pointer with 2.6 seconds remaining to knot the score and ultimately force OT.
The WolfPack (1-0) continued to connect from downtown in the extra session, as triples from Anton Bilous and Madhu McConnell helped the visitors pull away.
Bains was heroic in defeat for the Cascades (0-1), racking up a game-high 27 points.
The two teams lock horns once again on Saturday, tipping off at 7 p.m. at the EFAC.
"We stole one," TRU head coach Scott Clark said with a wry chuckle afterward. "We made some plays, but he (Bains) had to miss a free throw, and we had to go the length of the court and make a three.
"Tough one for Fraser Valley, and it's a good one for us. They're a good basketball team – they're as talented as any club in our whole league. We feel fortunate with the result."
The WolfPack got off to a strong start on Friday, building a 20-11 lead at the end of the first quarter and leading by as many as 12 in the second. But the Cascades battled back, reeling off a 12-0 run with triples from Mark Johnson and Parm Bains lighting the fuse, leveling the score 27-27.
TRU opened the third quarter on a 7-0 run to take a 41-32 lead, but the Cascades answered, and grabbed a 44-43 edge heading to the fourth.
Sukhjot Bains looked to put the UFV squad on his back in the late going. He hit a three with 1:44 left to put UFV up 55-52, and after Bilous answered with a triple of his own, Bains hit a tough driving layup to give the Cascades the lead once again.
Those would be the last points scored before TRU fouled Bains to send him to the line in the dying seconds. He made one but missed the second, and Nuno grabbed the rebound, raced downcourt and hit a pull-up trey over a strong contest from UFV's Andrew Morris.
Neither team shot the ball particularly well – TRU was at 36.6 per cent from the field for the game, fractionally better than UFV's 35.4 per cent mark. But while the WolfPack were lights-out from beyond the arc (15-for-30), the Cascades were subpar (10-of-30), and they also managed just 8-for-17 from the free throw line.
"You have no choice but to bounce back," UFV head coach Adam Friesen said afterward. "I thought we had some good opportunities on offence – we shot the ball really poorly from the foul line and from three, but I'm really happy with our defence from the second quarter on. We've just got to keep defending like that, and offensively, believe we're going to knock some more shots down tomorrow.
"I was really happy with how we competed. They (TRU) hit some really tough shots – there were some daggers out there. We had our moments, but weren't able to capitalize as often. That's the way it goes sometimes."
Parm Bains (14 points, seven assists) and Johnson (11 points, 11 rebounds) joined Sukhjot Bains in double figures for the Cascades, and Sukhman Sandhu chipped in with three blocks and eight boards.
TRU's Bilous counted four triples among his team-high 25 points. Joe Davis scored 11 points, Yonathan Michael had nine points off the bench, and Nuno finished with eight points and eight boards.