A pair of very good semi-finals last night as in the first game Trinity Western Spartans finally got the monkey off their backs by defeating provincial rivals UBC for the very first time since the Spartans entered the CIS - in doing so TWU kept the proverbial monkey on the T-Birds back. UBC has dominated Canada West regular season play for the better part of the past decade or so yet have not been able to capture that elusive CIS championship in the stretch. The Spartans victory was the latest in several instances across the country that support the adage that it is very difficult to defeat a strong team three times in one season.
Most already know that 6'6" lefty Kyle Coston knocked down a wide open 3 from the right wing with just 11 seconds remaining to give the Spartans the lead for good after 6'6" Kamar Burke's put back with a putback 20 seconds earlier. Coston's shot culminated a tremendous second half for the slender southpaw who, despite a sluggish start in which he missed several easy shots inside, showed he is not afraid to take big shots throughout the final quarter. Earlier Coston had missed a pair of free throws with the Spartans leading that kept UBC in the game. Prior to the Coston's big shot, the T-Birds made what turned out to a be a key substitution as 6'9" defensive stalward Balraj Bains was subbed in after a timeout. However, in what looked like some confusion with T-Birds defensively, Coston was left wide open off a ball reversal and Bains was late closing out on the perimeter, allowing Coston a clean look at the rim for the winner.
Things looked very good for the Birds in the early going as 6'1" Alex Murphy knocked down a pair of threes and hit a jumper to stake UBC to a 10 point lead after one and later extended to as much as 16. Despite a late Spartan run that got the game back, the Birds were able to take a 9 point lead into halftime and it appeared at that point that UBC's dominance over Trinity would continue. But TWU came out of halftime with a momentum-changing 12-2 run to start the third and as the T-Birds foul troubles mounted, the Spartans began dominating the glass and stuffing the paint defensively to set up the dramatic finish. UBC shot just 6-21 from downtown against the Spartans last night.
Thunderbirds starters 6'1" Josh Whyte and 6'6" Brent Malish both struggled with fouls as Malish picked up two quick ones in the first and Coach Kevin Hanson was able to keep his best big man on the bench with the lead. But Malish could never really get into a flow in the second half and later was whistled for his fifth on a charge, finishing the night with just 7 points, including a long 3 early in the first quarter and 2 rebounds in just 22 minutes. When he played, physical 6'5" Graham Bath did his best to bang with 6'6" Jacob Doerksen but had 5 fouls in just 4 minutes. The foul trouble forced Hanson to go smaller for long stretches of the game and in turn allowing the Spartans to dominate the glass (13 offensive rebounds/ 50-41 edge on the glass). Doerksen took advantage of the matchups to finish with 16 points while Coston led all scorers with 23 points and 12 boards.
Whyte closed out a tremendous career with a sluggish effort, going just 3 for 15 from the field including 0-3 from downtown and 6 turnovers. 6'3" Doug Plumb, after being UBC's best player in the first round win over Acadia, was held scoreless. 6'3" Nathan Yu did his best to keep the T-Birds in it especially in the second half with a solid effort (14 points 5-10 shooting) while Murphy had most of his 21 points in the first 12 or so minutes.
On display in the night cap was the exciting, acrobatic offensive skills of Saskatchewan's 5'11" Jamelle Barrett, who many around the tournament before the game whispering that he should have been the Moser winner. His unbelievable play in Friday's first round had many figuring the Huskies would be too much for the young Ravens and make it an All-CW championship game for the second year in a row. But 6'6" Tyson Hinz would ultimately show why he was the CIS MVP with a spectacular performance and the Ravens, well prepared by another tremendous-engineered defensive game plan, pulled away late in what most regard as an upset.
Hinz set the tempo for the Ravens very early by knocking down a pair of 3's from the top of the bowl off pick and pops - immediately instilling confidence back in the group after consecutive listless performances for the perimeter which quietly had Carleton questioning their confidence. With Hinz and 6'3" freshman Phil Scrubb leading the charge offensively and 6'5" Kyle Smendziuk, in arguably his best game ever as a Raven ripping rebounds away from the taller more athletic Huskies front line, Carleton raced out to an early double digit lead. But Barrett finally went to work with 6'2" Rejean Chabot to bring the game back before halftime although Sask could never put together any kind of run that would allow them to pull away. Sask did come back to take a brief lead midway through the fourth but after a Carleton timeout, the Ravens scored the next 6 points and never trailed thereafter.
Chabot was especially slick - his offensive game is as polished as any guard in recent memory given his array of moves in and around the rim coupled with solid perimeter jumper. Barrett, while very effective when allowed to get out in transition and create at high speeds, was generally held under control when Carleton was able to keep it as a quarter-court game. Barrett was kept away from his left hand in another in the series of stellar preps by Carleton coach Dave Smart and when he did make his way into the paint, was surrounded by well positioned help defenders.
Although Chabot (26 points) and Barrett (28 points) did get theirs offensively, Carleton's "d" held the dynamic duo to just 16-44 shooting (36%) and only 2 for 16 from downtown, showing once again that Carleton is built from the defensive end out.
But Hinz (32 points, 9 rebounds, 3-7 threes) was the difference offensively, especially when it mattered in the fourth quarter, showing off an array of slick back-to-the-basket finishes with both hands and slithering in for 7 offensive rebounds, leading to several put backs. Huskies decided to not aggressively double down on Hinz - in doing so staying home on 3 point shooters - but Hinz was equal to it, scoring at will on 6'6" Michael Lieffers and 6'6" Nolan Brudhel when they were left to guard one-on-one. Scrubb, who many seem to forget is still only a freshman who is responsible for most of Carleton's main perimeter decisions, had 17 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists, knocking down 3 3's as well.
The game had strong flow in stretches but was marred by a constant, almost incessant array of whistles, virtually dispelling the notion of the "no call" as the teams combined for a ridiculous 62 fouls on the evening, the most for either team all season. But in the end, superior defensive preparation which held reasonably in check one of the most exciting players to enter the CIS in recent memory and the tremendous offensive display by Hinz carried the Ravens into Sunday's final, where Smart will look to lead his group to the 7th National championship in the past 9 seasons.
Hope to have a preview later today.