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UNBC misses out on title shot
They wanted to become two-time defending national champions.
Instead, the UNBC men’s basketball team didn’t even win a Canadian Colleges Athletic Association (CCAA) medal.
It took one game at this year’s CCAA tournament in Oshawa, Ont. for the Northern Timberwolves to lose the opportunity of a repeat. Having lost their opener 81-66 to the Lethbridge College Kodiaks on Thursday, UNBC was dropped to the consolation side of the draw, with bronze the highest they could finish. That possibility was eliminated in their final game, an 84-49 defeat to the Mount St. Vincent University Mystics of Halifax in a consolation semifinal on Saturday morning.
The Timberwolves finished tied with the NAIT (Northern Alberta Institute of Technology) Ooks of Edmonton for fifth in the eight-team competition with a 1-2 record. UNBC’s win came against the host Durham College Lords on Friday, a 72-67 triumph.
“We played some very good defensive teams, but we also missed a lot of shots we normally make. We weren’t able to generate the level of intensity defensively that we needed to,” Timberwolves head coach Todd Jordan said. “It was still a good experience for the guys. The tournament was very well run. Anytime you get a chance to get to a nationals tournament, you can’t take it for granted that you’re going to get there every year. You have to enjoy it while you’re out there. It was neat seeing all the teams from across the country, knowing that we’re one of those elite few.”
After their win over UNBC, the Kodiaks defeated the B.C. Colleges Athletic Association championship-winning and CCAA top ranked Vancouver Island University Mariners 82-73 in the semfinals. The Vanier College Cheetahs defeated Lethbridge 102-85 in the final.
The Cheetahs, the Quebec Student Sport Federation representatives from the Montreal area, took the national title despite carrying a No. 7 ranking into the eight-team competition. They downed Mount St. Vincent University 70-65 in the other semifinal.
In the bronze medal final, the Nanaimo-based Mariners edged the Mystics 73-71.
The Mystics came out hard against the Timberwolves, building a 24-7 lead through the first quarter. They carried a 41-28 lead into the second half, in which they outscored UNBC 43-21.
With 16 points, Mystics sophomore guard Justin Hill led all scorers in the game. Teammate Sean Boulay, a fifth-year forward, recorded 13 points while three other Mount Saint Vincent players scored 10.
Fourth-year guard Sebastien-Kevin Louis and fourth-year forward Dennis Stark each scored 10 to lead the Timberwolves.
First-round wins by the Timberwolves and B.C. Colleges Athletic Association championship-winning Vancouver Island University Mariners would’ve put the provincial rivals in line for a semifinal game. But Jordan wouldn’t suggest that they overlooked the Kodiaks.
“Lethbridge was probably the best transition team I’ve seen in all my years being involved as a player or as a coach at this level,” he said.
The Humber College Hawks of Toronto rounded out the list of teams competing in Oshawa.
UNBC entered the competition ranked fourth. After a 16-2 regular season, they secured a wildcard berth for advancing to the BCCAA final against the Mariners. The Mariners won that game, played in Abbotsford on March 5, by a 96-90 score.
In last year’s nationals in Calgary, the Timberwolves won gold with a 96-63 triumph over the host SAIT (Southern Alberta Institute of Technology) Trojans in the final.
With nationals over, UNBC is looking ahead to rebuilding efforts for next season. The team’s identification camp is scheduled for April 8 and 9.
“I think at the end of the day, we’re probably going to end up bringing in three or four new guys,” Jordan said.