Arron Lai, Pronghorn Athletics
LETHBRIDGE - Returning to home court after two weeks on the road, the Lethbridge Pronghorns men's basketball team battled relentlessly throughout the night, coming up short 88-83 against a game Winnipeg Wesman team in Canada West men's basketball action.
The Pronghorns were looking to re-establish themselves as a top contender in Canada West, after dropping last weekend's series against the Alberta Golden Bears. In both games, the' Horns were able to keep pace with the Bears for three quarters, before they were outworked in the fourth.
This battle between contending teams hopeful to secure a home playoff game down the road (5-3 Wesman, 4-2 Pronghorns) was as thrilling of a basketball game that could be played. Both teams showcased their fast-paced offenses and suffocating defenses, pushing the ball up and down the court in transition. Although the Wesman led for most of the game, they were never able to break away, as the 'Horns always found an answer. The numbers five and six were seemingly cursed for the Wesman, as the Pronghorns were able to trim their deficit to one or two each time the Wesman would build a lead of five or six.
Winnipeg's Sean Tarver led all scorers in the win with 25 points, while Joseph Medrano and Narcisse Ambanza each chipped in with 13 points a piece.
For the Pronghorns, Awak Piom came off the bench to lead his team with 20 points. Zac Overwater and Mike Pierzchala contributed 14 and 13 points respectively in the loss.
With the Wesman taking a 65-60 lead into the fourth quarter, the Pronghorns looked to showcase their resiliency, which was on display all game. Winnipeg would seemingly begin to finally pull away, as a 5-0 run in the opening two minutes of the fourth quarter would see their lead rise to ten. As was routine all game, the 'Horns would go on a 6-0 run of their own, trimming the Wesman lead to four. Winnipeg would build a 75-69 lead, before an effort play by Zac Overwater to draw a foul, followed by an Awak Piom three, would trim the deficit to one, 75-74. The Wesman would open up a familiar six point lead, 84-78, before a tough and-one drive by Eric Pierce, followed by a Colton Gibb post-up would bring the Horns back to within one, 84-83. Winnipeg would finally be able to generate momentum when it mattered, scoring the final four points of the game to hold off the Pronghorns.
With the loss, the Horns drop to 4-3 on the season, while the Wesman improve to 6-2.
The action was frantic in the first quarter with both team hustling up and down the floor in transition. Each team rarely used their full 24, showcasing a run-and-gun quarter of basketball that energized the crowd. Momentum would swing back-and-forth, with the teams trading baskets throughout the quarter. The Pronghorns however would showcase their impressive defense, forcing five steals in the frame to fuel their fast-faced offense which propelled them to a 21-18 lead.
The teams did not slow down in the second quarter, as the 'Horns continued to use their hustle on defense to create offensive opportunities. The story of the second frame however was the Wesman's ability to knock down their shots. Winnipeg would shoot 58% from the field in the second quarter (11 of 19). The Pronghorns would take the same number of shots, but were only successful on 7 of their 19 attempts. A number of highlight reel plays were produced on both ends. For the Pronghorns, a put-back dunk by Awak Piom, and a buzzer beating contested three pointer by Narcisse Ambanza for the Wesman. Both teams were paced by a balanced offense, with seven Wesman, and eight Pronghorns registering a basket in the first half.
The third quarter was just as frantic as the first two, with neither team able to gain momentum. Both sides always seemed to have an answer for the other, utilizing their respective strengths to score points. For the 'Horns, their active, stifling defense, which often lead to points in transition. For the Wesman, their ability to limit the 'Horns in the paint, slowing down the likes of Zac Overwater. The Wesman would take a 65-60 lead into the final quarter.
The 'Horns would battle tooth-and-nail for most of the fourth quarter, before the Wesman were able to seal their victory in the final minute of the game.
The teams will run it back tomorrow night to wrap up the weekend set. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. at the First Choice Savings Center in Lethbridge. Catch all the action on www.canadawest.tv.
photo by: MPP Photography