Basketballers play hard at home

By Stewart Pallard

The University of Calgary Dinos men’s basketball team finished the 2007-08 season with a perfect home record after beating the University of Manitoba Bisons and the University of Winnipeg Wesmen at the Jack Simpson Gymnasium this past weekend. The Dinos also finished in first place in the central division of Canada West, giving them a first-round playoff bye and home-court advantage in the second round of the playoffs.

Friday night’s game against the Bisons was a dominant effort by the Dinos. The Bisons have not enjoyed a stellar season but they have a major upset against the second-ranked Acadia Axemen and the University of Alberta Golden Bears. On this night, they played a complete game and dominated the Bisons in a 101-77 victory.

“I thought we came out well and had great defensive intensity in the first half,” said Dino forward Henry Bekkering. [We] held them to only 34 points.”

They outscored the Bisons in every quarter and had a huge 49-34 lead at half-time. The game grew a little closer as Dinos head coach Dan Vanhooren gave his bench players more playing time, but the Bisons never seriously threatened to retake the lead, with the closest the Bisons attempt being within 19 points at just under a minute remaining in the contest.

“I thought our defensive effort was better,” said Vanhooren. “We had some breakdowns at times that we’re hurting us and we gave them some easy shots. We can still improve defensively and if we’re going to win it all in playoffs and move forward, I think that needs to be a concerted [focus] for our team.”

Canada West MVP candidate Henry Bekkering led the Dinos again. He is averaging over 20 points per game, is 10th in Canada West in rebounding and scorched the Bisons for 22 points and nine boards. Forward Robbie Sihota is having a fine season as well and recorded another double-double with 18 points and 13 rebounds. Rookie Tyler Fidler had 14 points, Cody Darrah ended with 11 and point guard Jeff Price recorded 18 points, nine assists and six rebounds.

Price has quickly become one of the top point guards in the league after spending last season playing for the Mount Royal Cougars. He currently leads all players in Canada West in assists per game average at 5.18 and the free throw percentage at an impressive .890. Forward Ross Bekkering, who leads Canada West in rebounding, sat out both games to rest a nagging ankle injury.

The Dinos used their last regular season home game to recognize fifth-year players Jeremy Odland and Cody Darrah in a traditional pre-game ceremony. Darrah gave the Dinos a much needed three-point threat all season long as well as much-needed experience on a young club. Last season Odland suffered a broken jaw during a game against the Huskies that required surgery but the committed veteran came back to have a strong season off the bench to the Dinos.

Unfortunately for the fans attending the game Sat. night the Wesmen were missing their top two players–one of which being fifth-year Erfan Nasajpour who is aomng the best players in Canada West. Nasajpour is currently averaging over 20 points a game and leads the league in steals. Henry Bekkering ran wild with three huge dunks and a 25- point effort on the night. Darrah nailed a three-point shot from his own three-point line at half time pushing the Dinos to 98-62. There were times in the game where the Dinos were doubling the Wesmen in points, not to mention they also out-rebounded the central Canadian opponoents 46 to 32.

“I thought we played pretty well at times,” said Vanhooren. “We started a little bit slow. Defensively, we gave up scores on their first four possessions that they had and our guys were a little bit disappointed in that but we should give a couple of those guys credit [because] they hit some shots there. After that, we settled in and played well for the most part.”

Sihota had a trademark effort with 15 points and a game-high 8 rebounds, Fidler recorded 12 points and Darrah chipped in with 13 of his own.

The Dinos will close out the regular season on the road against the University of Saskatchewan Huskies. The Huskies have a good team that includes former Canada West player of the year Andrew Spagrud. After playing some weak opponents over the last two weeks, it will be good for Calgary to play one of the better teams in the league before the playoffs begin in order to tune up their game entering the post-season. The next home game for the Dinos will be a playoff match against either the Huskies or the Golden Bears, as the Dinos will await the winner of that playoff series due to their first-round bye.

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