Ballers win fight for playoff spot

The Dinos men’s basketball team defied gravity Feb. 11-12 as they kept their game–along with their playoff hopes–up in the air. After some turbulence on Saturday afternoon against the University of Saskatchewan Huskies, our men were keen to jet-set their way into the last playoff spot of the season.

Regina served as a warm-up ground on Saturday, giving the Dinos a shopping list of what to work on for Sunday. Despite the Huskies’ high-scoring Andrew Spagrud, the Dinos managed to out-mush the Huskies at the free-throw line with Josh Feist, Dalbir Dosanjh and Cody Darrah all shooting 100 per cent. The Dinos continued to stake their claim under the hoop as well, with super-sized rebounds from Ross Bekkering, Dosanjh and Chris Wright.

Well executed plays, along with big jumpers from Brian Finniss and Robbie Sihota, kept the score tightly woven. Yet field shots and turnovers snagged the game as the Dinos fell under the Huskies’ sled 71-61. Although a win here could have been a lost security blanket to some, Dinos head coach Dan Vanhooren did not see it that way.

“It still left the door open for [The University of] Lethbridge to win against [The University of] Alberta and us to grab that last spot,” he explained. [It made] Sunday’s win critical for us.”

Critical, and in intensive care. But the Dinos had the perfect touch on Sunday, storming in the first half with a game plan the Huskies could not hope to touch. The 45-26 half-time score was simply the cookie crumb left behind by brilliant shooting and aggression, both offensively and defensively–a combination that the Dinos have been striving for all season.

The second half showed a triple threat from the point guards with energetic Feist, the up-and-coming Tony Dhaliwal and a fired up Darrah adding a spoonful of sugar to a hypoglycemic game. Darrah went on to tie Wright at 16 points while Wright once again fulfilled the rebound quota with a huge, crowd-pleasing 12 boards. Sihota and Bekkering were not far behind with 13- and 12-point contributions respectively. This lethal injection kept the Huskies at bay during the second half with the curtain falling on an 81-71 Dino victory.

With Lethbridge losing to the U of A on Friday, the Dinos fell into the central division semi-finals. They match up against the U of A Golden Bears Feb. 17-19 for a best-of-three series. The score-or-die approach this weekend will push the young team even harder.

“That’s one of the big reasons we’re so excited about these kids getting into playoffs; they’ll have that experience for the future,” said Vanhooren, who sees the role of each player as central to the playoff’s high hopes. “We get a pretty good level of consistency out of all of our kids. When you walk in our locker room and see how these kids get along, looking at it from the outside, they are a very cohesive group.”

The winner of this series returns to Saskatoon Feb. 24-26 to earn the divisional title. After that: right to the moon.

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