‘Birds survive while Dinos perish

The Dinos run at the Final 8 again ended in disappointing fashion.

They were defeated in the semi-final of the Canadian Interuniversity Sport championship by the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds for the second year in a row, this time by a score of 77-63.

Fouls forced the Dinos to go deep into their bench early. Ross Bekkering was limited to just a minute and 20 seconds of playing time in the first half after taking two fouls at the start of the game.

“To pick up two quick fouls like that, it’s not in the game plan,” said Bekkering. “It’s not what I’m trying to do. Our team responded really well. In a tournament like this, your bench has to step up at different times. I thought they did that.”

Despite this, the Dinos managed to keep pace with the T-Birds. A long Alex Murphy buzzer-beating three put the T-Birds up by five heading into the break.

“[The bench] kept us in the game and we were right there at half,” said Bekkering. “Unfortunately, we just couldn’t get it done. I think that was really tough to handle. Knowing that our bench kept us in there, I felt like personally I let them down a little bit. That was really tough.”

Poor shooting by the Dinos helped the T-Birds take a double digit lead midway through the third quarter. Dinos fifth-year Robbie Sihota sank only his second shot of the game at the 5:40 mark in the third and drew the foul. His missed free throw started a run of four minutes where the Dinos shot zero for six from the floor, and missed two more free throws.

“[The shots not falling] was a symptom of how the game went,” said Dinos head coach Dan Vanhooren. “We had so many guys in foul trouble, and that just changes what we do and what we operate offensively and what the things that we do are designed for.”

Sihota shot just three for 16 in his final game as a Dino.

“I feel bad for Robbie, he’s been a fantastic performer for us all year for him to come out and miss as many shots as he did today- at least he kept his chin up and kept battling,” said Vanhooren.

By the time the Dinos scored again, the T-Birds had amassed a 14-point lead. Seven points by Bekkering in the last 1:40 of the quarter helped bring the Dinos to within six of the T-Birds to start the fourth.

Things seemed to have turned the Dinos way when Bekkering opened the final quarter with a massive two-handed dunk. But the T-Birds Kamar Burke responded with a slam of his own on the other end just 20 seconds later to start a 12-0 run for UBC which expanded their lead again into the teens.

“Getting that dunk on the next play was huge for us,” said T-Birds fourth-year Josh Whyte, who was named the CIS player of the year Thursday. “It was an uplift and we just went with it.”

“Kamar was just a beast on the boards. He was able to get above the rim and get some offensive boards in a timely fashion,” added T-Birds head coach Kevin Hanson. “Defensively he was there making good decisions getting the ball as well.”

They led by 20 when Dinos rookie point guard Jarred Ogungbemi-Jackson tried to lead a miraculous turn around. He had yet to score, but put up 16 points in the final four minutes. It wasn’t enough as the Dinos were unable to close the gap closer than 11 points.

“You can’t say enough about Jarred,” said Vanhooren. “Down the stretch, he was the one knocking down shots and playing. He’s a future kid that we’re building around and we’re thrilled with what we have.”

Ogungbemi-Jackson’s 16 points led the Dinos. Bekkering had 13 points. Four T-Birds scored in the double digits. Whyte led UBC with 16 and Murphy had 14 off the bench. Burke was named the player of the game with a double-double of 14 points and 13 rebounds.

The Dinos’ loss ends a three-year run where the core of Sihota and Bekkering led the team to three-straight Prairie division championships, hosting the Canada West final four in 2008 and two trips to the CIS semi-finals.

“It’s a changing of the guard for our basketball program,” said Vanhooren. “How do I react? It’s an emotional reaction. I love these kids. They’re great kids. They worked hard for us. They changed the culture of our program.”

Bekkering wanted to keep playing hard despite things looking like they were out of reach in the fourth.

“Once the buzzer sounds and it starts to settle in, all things are going through your mind and feelings are starting to come up,” he said. “It’s an end to a career and not how I would’ve liked it, but I look back on my five years and see a lot of things that I’m proud of. I’ve built up a lot of great relationships and met a lot of good people. I think it’s important to focus on those positive aspects. But right now, it’s tough to see that. It really sucks.”

The win puts the T-Birds in the final where they will face off against the Canada West champion University of Saskatchewan Huskies. Last year they lost to the Carleton University Ravens, who were knocked out in the other semi-final by the Huskies.

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