The UBC men's basketball team lost game one of the Canada West quarter-finals against the University of Manitoba Bisons on Friday night. After the close 75-79 result, the ’Birds had been backed into a corner in their own home.
The team had to win the second game on Saturday night to avoid elimination. They came so very close to keeping their hopes alive, only to lose it in a ridiculous overtime shootout.
UBC’s A.J. Holloway drew a foul to open the game but missed both free throws. Bisons’ Justus Alleyn caught fire early and scored half of his team’s points in the first quarter.
Conor Morgan — Canada West’s leading scorer this season — committed early fouls, and was out of the game for most of the first half. The ’Birds’ offence centred around post-up and attacking the basket throughout the game. Offensive rebounds gave the UBC tons of second chances as well.
But free-throw woes continued for the ’Birds in the first half, as they only made 8 of 15 attempts from the charity stripe. Ilarion Bonhomme’s quickness and play-making gave the Bisons an edge. Still, they found it hard to counter the size and athleticism of the T-Birds. It was a tightly matched game with Manitoba leading by two going into halftime break.
The second half was even more competitive, as both teams went over foul limits within the first five minutes. The ’Birds kept attacking the basket and wreaking havoc on the glass, while the Bisons moved the ball beautifully and created easy buckets.
Jordan Jensen-Whyte dominated in the paint by steamrolling opponents, and went to the line five times. UBC forward Patrick Simon filled the void left by Morgan’s absence by putting up 21 points, and was deadly beyond the three-point line.
The Thunderbirds overcame a four-point deficit in 35 seconds. This came after a stretch that saw five field goals scored by both teams, including four three-pointers. The game went to overtime. Bonhomme’s buzzer beater was waived for being one millisecond late.
Overtime was an emotional roller coaster with the momentum swinging like a pendulum. Morgan tied the game at 95 with a clutch three-pointer, and proceeded to make a free throw to put the ’Birds up by one. When everyone thought the victory was almost certain for UBC, Basi made his way over multiple screens, got open and drilled in the dagger that ended the T-Birds’ playoff journey at 98-96. The entire War Memorial gym sank into disbelief and sorrow.
The Bisons completed the sweep behind Bonhomme’s 26 points and nine assists. Basi knocked down the final three-pointer with nine seconds left to clinch the victory for the visiting team. Jensen-Whyte finished the game with a game high of 33 points and 10 assists for the T-Birds. His performances sent the game to overtime and gave the ’Birds a one-point lead with 19 seconds left in overtime.
Every player gave it their all. Although it was gut-wrenching to watch UBC players choke on tears, shrouded in disbelief and anger, this was no doubt a great game.
“It’s tough man. It’s a great year. Couple of things didn’t go our way,” said Jensen-Whyte. “For a couple of our guys, this is their sophomore year and Manitoba is a great team.”
“I have nothing but respect for my coach and the players. I have nothing but love for this place.”