Bisons drub Wolves, end 24-year ti­tle drought

Winnipeg Free Press - Section D - - FRONT PAGE - By Melissa Martin

IT took seven years and a lot of heart­break­ers to do it, but the Wes­men Clas­sic’s men’s bas­ket­ball ti­tle will be stay­ing home in Man­i­toba this time.

On Wed­nes­day night, the Univer­sity of Man­i­toba Bisons stam­peded over the Lake­head Thun­der­wolves, tak­ing the 49th an­nual tour­na­ment’s fi­nal, 73-54.

That marks the first Wes­men Clas­sic cham­pi­onship for Man­i­toba since 1991, and their eighth all-time.

It’s also the first time one of the three Man­i­toba-based CIS teams has won the tour­na­ment since 2008, when Bran­don took it, and the first time a city team earned it since 2006, when the Wes­men won on home court.

For Bisons head coach Kirby Schepp, who won some Clas­sics back when he was a Wes­men player and then as­sis­tant coach, it was an emo­tional end­ing.

“To be hon­est with you, when pre­sen­ta­tions were hap­pen­ing, I really had a lot of mem­o­ries of win­ning that tro­phy as a player,” Schepp said. “I think it’s great for the tour­na­ment for lo­cal teams to win... it’s great that the lo­cal teams are do­ing well and help­ing to raise the level of bas­ket­ball.”

As for the game, maybe it looked to an out­sider like the Bisons al­ways had it un­der con­trol, but “it never feels like that” to a coach, Schepp said with a laugh. His team had clashed with Lake­head early in the pre-sea­son, where the Thun­der­wolves from Thun­der Bay twice dis­patched a slightly un­der­manned team.

On Wed­nes­day, with Man­i­toba healthy and rid­ing a strong 6-2 con­fer­ence start, the re­sults looked, well, a whole lot dif­fer­ent. Led by for­ward Brett Jewell, who racked up 12 points through just the first 20 min­utes, Man­i­toba rolled a 37-24 lead into the half­time break.

Jewell would pick it right back up af­ter the break, pop­ping in a deuce to open the sec­ond half. He fin­ished with 16 points, sec­ond-high­est on the team. Schepp was pleased, al­ways hop­ing to see the 6-7, fourth-year for­ward add a lit­tle more of­fence to his game.

He wasn’t the only sharp­shooter on the Bisons, though.

Four Man­i­toba play­ers fin­ished with dou­ble-digit points.

Top­ping the list was high-fly­ing guard Keith Omo­erah, who was named tour­na­ment MVP. In ad­di­tion to de­liv­er­ing 18 points and five re­bounds for his team, he also cranked up the en­ter­tain­ment.

In the 27th minute, for in­stance, Omo- erah leaped up for a dunk that rat­tled the Duck­worth Cen­tre. Guard Ilar­ion Bon­homme fol­lowed that up sec­onds later with a silky layup that se­cured the Bisons a 16-point lead. Those elec­tric mo­ments brought the bustling crowd to their feet.

Of­fence wasn’t really the game story, though. Lake­head strug­gled to score, led by for­ward Bacar­ius Dink­ins, who put up 16 points and grabbed eight boards, and by guard Alex Ro­bichaud, with 11 points and six re­bounds.

Mean­while, the Bisons racked up 23 points off turnovers, while the Thun­der­wolves man­aged just four.

“That was prob­a­bly one of our bet­ter de­fen­sive per­for­mances of the year,” Schepp said. “Lake­head is pretty ex­plo­sive in the way they can shoot the ball and get it go­ing. We really held them down.”

Now, the Bisons must get ready for con­fer­ence ac­tion. Man­i­toba’s Canada West sea­son con­tin­ues Jan. 8 in Bri­tish Columbia, where the Bisons will face the Vic­to­ria Vikes.

Ear­lier Wed­nes­day, the Wes­men beat the Aca­dia Ax­e­men 90-64 to clinch the tour­na­ment’s third-place ti­tle.

They were knocked out by Man­i­toba in Tues­day’s semi­fi­nal.


Man­i­toba’s Ilar­ion Bon­homme II (left) shoots over Lake­head’s Bacar­ius Dink­ins.

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