Battle of the border

The Battle of the Border returned to the University of Calgary’s Jack Simpson gym August 11-15, pitting the U of C Dinos, the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns and Concordia’s Stingers against the University of Northern Arizona Lumberjacks. With five back-to-back game days still ahead of them, the ‘Jacks tipped-off against the U of L Pronghorns first, defeating them 106-72. Arizona extended their winning streak when they crushed Concordia 117-66 in their single match up of the tournament the following evening.

Game three was the Dinos’ first encounter with the Lumberjacks and they led by a single point at halftime. The Dinos unleashed a beast of three-pointers in the third-quarter eventually topping the Lumberjacks 89-65 handing them their first and only loss of the tournament.

“We were excited to beat a Division One team,” said Dinos men’s basketball coach Dan Vanhooren. “After that our reaction was more ‘Tomorrow’s going to be a different game, they are going to come at us a lot harder.’ “

The Dinos could not have been more right. The evening following, the Lumberjack’s came out playing mostly starters and key players. VanHooren said that for the Lumberjacks to play their star player for 30 minutes in August is, in itself, a big deal.

“Our goal was to see if we could play 12 deep like we wanted to and still keep the game competitive,” said Vanhooren. “I was really happy with the second night. We played 12 guys. I was really happy with what our guys brought.”

Despite the fact that a measly six point margin separated the Dinos and Lumberjacks with three minutes left on the clock, the Dinos lost 80-63.

“It ended up being not nearly what it should have been, but that’s okay,” said Vanhooren. “Fighting back always takes energy. What’s impressive about it is it shows your team has a bit of guts. It shows that we have a bit of that and it shows that we have some leadership in the group and I think that’s the part that’s thrilling for us as coaches and for the group. I think it’ll make the year much better.”

The tournament provided the opportunity for Dinos fans to get a first good look at VanHooren’s recruiting class.

“I was really impressed with us,” said Vanhooren. “For us to beat a Division One team the way we did and convincingly — I was really really happy with our effort and with a lot of things that we have. I think we have a lot of tools to work with. I think we’ve got a great shooting team. We’ve got a hard working team that’ll play tough defence.”

Northern Arizona closed the tournament by defeating Lethbridge 83-62, finishing their five-game, across-the-border tour 4-1.

The Lumberjacks from Flagstaff, Arizona are the third team in their conference to visit the U of C for Battle of the Border since the tournament’s inception in 2006.

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