Powerhouse Bisons outfight Wesmen to gain final
IT had all the trappings of a classic crosstown matchup, rivals to the end, the Wesmen and the Bisons clashing on the court and fighting for the win.
Oh yeah, the Wesmen Classic’s first university semifinal had it all: highflying antics, gritty play, and some thrilling slam dunks.
This time, the University of Manitoba came out on top. The Bisons held the U of Winnipeg back, ultimately clinching their final berth by a score of 76-70. It wasn’t exactly a beautiful game, Bisons head coach Kirby Schepp thought, but the local pairing never seems to go that way.
“I don’t know if it’s the rivalry, or the familiarity, but it seems like it’s always a little bit of an ugly, grind-itout, physical kind of affair,” Schepp said. “Credit to them, I thought their defensive intensity was better than ours for much of the game.”
Last year, when they met in the Wesmen Classic semifinal, the Winnipeg squad came out on top. But this Manitoba team is now at the top of their arc, deep and dangerous and loaded with veterans. The 2015-16 Wesmen, by contrast, are notably young and still searching to find a consistent stride.
Still, it finished tight. The Wesmen outscored the Bisons 25-22 in the final quarter, as high-flying Wesmen star Denzel Lynch-Blair caught fire for a slew of deuces to keep the match within reach. He finished with a gamehigh 24 points, while Will Sesay and seasoned forward Jelane Pryce each had a double-double night.
In the dying minutes of the game, Bisons guard Keith Omoerah slammed a dunk — one of several on the night — that got the crowd at Duckworth Centre howling. He finished his show with 18 points and 14 rebounds, as well as a trio of steals, and was named player of the game.
The Wesmen dominated off the boards in their own end, collecting 79.1 per cent of defensive rebounds and 58.9 per cent overall; but the Bisons’ firepower and fluid passing made the difference. The Bisons scored on 38.9 per cent of their three-point tries, while the Wesmen made just one of 10.
There is a lesson in those numbers, as the Bisons eye a deep CIS playoff run. “We were very lucky to win today,” said Bisons guard A.J. Basi, who finished with 19 points. “You don’t win when you’re down that much in the rebound battle. If we want to win in our goal to win conference, we can’t get out-rebounded.”
Before then, the Bisons have a tournament to win. They’ll face the Lakehead Thunderwolves in the Wesmen Classic final tonight at 8 p.m.