Playoff Rundown: Men’s basketball takes Canada West title, volleyball falls just short

Men’s basketball is Canada West champion and will go into the U Sports Final 8 on a big win streak. Men's volleyball faltered and saw their season come to an end at the hands of the Alberta Golden Bears.

Cohee, Clair lead Thunderbirds past Golden Bears to take conference title

Veteran Jadon Cohee played a huge role in helping the T-Birds capture another Canada West title.
Veteran Jadon Cohee played a huge role in helping the T-Birds capture another Canada West title. File Salomon Micko Benrimoh

Having won seven games in a row, the confidence of the UBC men’s basketball team was at an all-time high and it showed on Saturday night as the Thunderbirds emerged victorious over the University of Alberta Golden Bears to become the 2020 Canada West champions.

Nerves were on full display as both teams missed a few wide-open looks to begin the game. Two minutes in, Thunderbird sniper Manroop Clair hit a three and appeared to throw a few chirps to his defender, which fired up the Golden Bears.

UBC led 18–6 just over halfway through the first, forcing the Golden Bears to take a timeout and regroup. However, Alberta’s struggles continued as sloppy passes led to easy buckets for the Thunderbirds. The opening quarter ended with the Thunderbirds up 24–10.

The second quarter proved to be an entirely different story. A quick three by Alberta’s Dwan Williams during the first possession set the tone for the Golden Bears for the duration of the quarter. Careless plays by the Thunderbirds allowed the home side to score easy points.

Tyus Jefferson led the way for the Golden Bears as he scored a few layups after relentlessly fighting for the ball and forcing turnovers. However, UBC guard Jadon Cohee caught fire at the end of the quarter, hitting tough shots which included a buzzer-beating three to singlehandedly keep his team in the game. The score would be 36–30 UBC going into halftime, but they were outscored 20–12 by Alberta in the second.

The game tightened up in the second half, as both teams settled in after a wild first and second quarter. Jefferson continued his strong play for Alberta in the third by converting on shots and drawing fouls.

Clair answered with a few threes for the Thunderbirds and Cohee would get fouled right at the buzzer, leading to two converted free throws and a 59–53 lead for UBC going into the final quarter.

The fourth started with a bang, as both teams scored on their first possessions and UBC led 64–55 just over a minute in. But Alberta’s Adam Paige hit a huge three to keep his team in the game, which swung the momentum in favour of the Golden Bears. The home team would go on a run, eventually leading by one with only three minutes left in the game.

Fortunately for the Thunderbirds, Cohee and Clair kept up their strong play by hitting a few threes with time winding down, eventually resulting in a 72–70 UBC win. The Golden Bears desperately tried to tie things up during the waning seconds of the game, but they got into foul trouble and handed the ball back to UBC, securing their victory.

Although the Thunderbirds were elated with the victory, they know that an even bigger prize will be up for grabs next week: the U Sports National Championship. Both teams will compete for the national championship and there’s no doubt Alberta will be highly motivated to play UBC again and exact some revenge.

Men’s volleyball fall to Golden Bears in Canada West Semis

The T-Birds season ended with a heartbreaker to the Golden Bears.
The T-Birds season ended with a heartbreaker to the Golden Bears. File Aman Sridhar

A heartbreaking loss at the hands of the University of Alberta Golden Bears in the Canada West semifinals ends an otherwise remarkable season for the University of British Columbia men’s volleyball team.

The teams split the first two games of the best-of-three series, with Alberta taking the first on Friday by a set score of 3–0 while the Thunderbirds clawed even with a hard fought 3–2 win Saturday evening. The second-ranked Golden Bears and the third-ranked Thunderbirds went down to the wire in the third and deciding game on Sunday.

The first set was all UBC in the beginning, dashing out to a 5–1 lead which forced Alberta to use both their timeouts before the first technical timeout of the game. Despite the attempt to break up their rhythm, the Thunderbirds continued their good momentum and finished off the set strong by a score of 25–17.

However, the second set saw the tides turn as the Golden Bears started hot, jumping out to a 7–2 lead. While UBC battled back hard, closing the gap numerous times to just one point, they could never pull even with Alberta firing on all cylinders, losing the set 25–22 and knotting the game up at one set apiece.

The third set saw a strong start by the Thunderbirds, springing up a 6–2 lead before the Golden Bears took a timeout. After the break, Alberta found their stride once more and brought it back to 14–14, leading to a UBC timeout. A devastating kill after the timeout proved to be the game changer and while the Thunderbirds fought valiantly, they eventually dropped the set 25–22.

A scrappy start to the fourth set signified a battle of attrition, the two teams trading blows well through into the halfway point. It was here that the Golden Bears began to pull away, and despite the best efforts of Michael Dowhaniuk and Coltyn Liu, who led the T-Birds with 15 and 13 kills respectively, it wasn’t enough as a block ended the fourth set with a score of 25–20.

The win for the Alberta Golden Bears sends them through to the Conference Finals, where they will play the number one ranked team in the nation, Trinity Western University Spartans (20–2) for the Canada West crown. The Thunderbirds return home empty handed but have much to be proud of with an excellent 17–5 regular season record, enough to be ranked as the fourth best team in Canada.