Pow­er­house Bisons out­fight Wes­men to gain fi­nal

Winnipeg Free Press - Section D - - SPORTS -

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.

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