Aaron Lai, Pronghorn Athletics
LETHBRIDGE – In a sure-fire game of the year candidate, the No. 3 Calgary Dinos held off the Lethbridge Pronghorns 91-79 in a gruelling, physical battle in the first game of a home-and-home between the two teams in Lethbridge.
The Pronghorns battled throughout the game, consistently trying to keep pace with the defending national champions. Finding themselves down by as many as 22 in the third quarter, things seemed bleak for the Horns, in front of a raucous home crowd. Battling back, the Pronghorns would continue to build momentum, coming within 10 points of the Dinos to end the third quarter. The Pronghorns would pressure in the fourth quarter, but were held off by a Dinos squad which continually attacked the paint. The closest the Horns would come was eight points, as the Dinos improved to 11-0 on the season with their victory. The Horns drop to 4-5, with both teams having one more game to play before the semester break.
Brett Layton led the visitors with 21 points and 9 rebounds, while Lucas Mannes, and Mambi Diawara also chipped in with 18 and 17 points a piece. The Dinos fielded a balanced attack, with all but one player registering a point on the night.
Five Pronghorns recorded double digits, including Eric Pierce, Kyle Peterson, Mike Pierzchala, Zac Overwater, and Colton Gibb. Peterson, Pierce and Gibb each had 14 points, while Overwater and Pierzchala picked up 13 and 11 points respectively.
The Pronghorns jumped out to a fast start, energized by their home court crowd. Zac Overwater and Eric Pierce made their marks on the game early, finishing tough shots to keep the 'Horns up to the pace with the high octane Calgary Dinos. Pierce and Overwater were seemingly unstoppable in the quarter, both finishing a perfect 3 of 3 from the field, combining for 14 of the 19 Lethbridge points as Overwater would add a pair of free throws. The Dinos had an answer for every shot by the Pronghorns as six Calgary scorers would find a basket. Both teams shot the ball well, with the Dinos knocking down 10 of 18, and the Horns 8 of 15.
Action picked up in the second quarter, with both teams ramping up their intensity and physicality. The teams would trade baskets in the early going, with Lucas Mannes and Mambi Diawara scoring for the Dinos, before Zac Overwater and Colton Gibb would answer for Lethbridge. A turning point in the second quarter would see Dinos forward Mambi Diawara pick up a technical foul, after a brief exchange with Kyle Peterson. Rather than providing a spark for the Pronghorns, the Dinos would build momentum following the technical, building a 13 point lead before halftime. The Dinos would outhustle the Pronghorns on the glass, out-rebounding the home team 22 to 12.
The Dinos would start the third quarter on a 7-0 run, pushing the ball up the court to overwhelm the Pronghorns as they built a 22 point lead. The 'Horns would immediately respond, going on a 10 point run of their own, sparked by an and-one play by fourth-year guard Kyle Peterson. Gibb would knock down a jump shot, followed by a Josh Sparkes three to bring the 'Horns within 14 points. From there, the teams would go back-and-forth. Trading baskets, things would begin to get chippy between the two teams. In a rare occurrence, three consecutive technical fouls would be called on the Dinos, as momentum would begin to shift towards the home side. A last second three by Mike Pierzchala would see the Pronghorns come within ten.
Kyle Peterson would start the fourth quarter for the Pronghorns with a big three, before back-to-back three pointers by Mambi Diawara would begin to swing momentum back in Calgary's favor.
Lethbridge would begin to rally, starting with another timely three by Peterson, followed by a hard drive to the basket by Chad Oviatt, drawing the foul. Oviatt would follow with a three pointer, putting the Pronghorns within eight, and sending the Pronghorns' largest crowd of the season into a frenzy. As they did all game, the Dinos would go on a brief run to extend their lead back to 10, before back-to-back shots by the Horns would put them back in the game but could not make the shots down the stretch to complete the comeback.
The Pronghorns and Dinos close out the first semester of Canada West action Saturday night in Calgary. Tip off is set for 7 p.m. MT in the Jack Simpson Gym, Catch all the action on www.canadawest.tv.
Photo by: MPP Photography