The VIU Mariners only needed one game to find out that they can come through in crunch time on the court.
Vancouver Island University’s men’s basketball team won its PacWest home opener Thursday night at the VIU gym, edging the Camosun Chargers 82-81 as Usama Zaid scored a game-winning basket with 12 seconds left.
“I thought the guys did a really good job of keeping their composure in a tough spot. When things got tough there, we stayed together,” said Matt Kuzminski, the team’s coach.
Zaid said the close win is good for the Mariners because it shows them right away that there will be tough games throughout the PacWest season and reinforces the importance of having “that grit, that focus to never stop playing and to keep competing no matter what.
“In that game right there, if we would have hung our head for one second, then we would have lost, but we didn’t do that,” he said. “And that shows character from our guys and that’s instilled in us from our coaches.”
The M’s had a hot start, up by 10 points after one quarter, but things got closer and the Chargers took the lead with 20 seconds left in the game.
Zaid said VIU’s final possession didn’t go exactly as planned, as Camosun double-teamed him, but he was able to force his way between two defenders.
“I got a nice look at the basket, so I took it,” he said.
Zaid finished with 28 points and six rebound, Tyus Barfoot and Jerod Dorby scored 15 points each and Bryson Cox added 14.
Kuzminski said overall, his team had good spurts, but didn’t sustain its defensive intensity for 40 minutes and sometimes got away from the ball movement it strives for on offence.
A new season means some new additions and new contributors to the team, and Kuzminski said guys are still getting comfortable in their roles.
“That’s totally been something we’ve seen in the pre-season is there’s an adjustment period, there’s a period of chemistry that takes some building and guys figuring out who they are, who their teammates are and how we fit together,” the coach said.
Zaid said he sees, on the Mariners, “a lot of guys that can go” and a lot of raw talent.
“But if we don’t bring that together as a team and keep building from here, then we’re not going to get where we want to go,” he said. “Looking at the season from now, I feel like, man, we have great things ahead of us. I feel like we’ve got all the pieces to do everything we want to do this year.”
Also at the VIU gym Thursday, VIU’s women’s basketball team lost its home opener to Camosun by a 75-68 score. For more on the women’s team, click here.
GAME ON … The Mariners teams visit the Columbia Bible College Bearcats on Friday, Nov. 10 in Abbotsford. The next home games are Nov. 17-18 against the Douglas Royals and Capilano Blues, respectively.