Dinos fall in national semi-finals again

By Jon Roe

Game 1, Dinos versus Capers

OTTAWA — The Dinos men’s basketball team ended the Cape Breton University Capers hoop dreams Friday.

In the opening game of the quarterfinals of the Canadian Interuniversity Sport Championships at Scotiabank Place in Ottawa, the seventh-seeded Dinos won 82-74 over the second-seeded Capers. The win matched them up again against the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds in Saturday’s semi-final.

The Dinos’ win came on the back of a monstrous effort from the freethrow line. The Dinos went to the line 36 times, sinking 29 of their shots, compared to just four shots on 10 attempts for the Capers.

“We said, ‘Let’s use our big men and get inside. Let’s slow them down and get them in foul trouble,’ ” said fifth-year forward Robbie Sihota, who sank 25 points and five of six from the charity stripe. “We did. We got some of their guys in foul trouble and we got easy points from the free throw line.”

Sihota added 11 rebounds to pick up a double-double in the game.

Fellow fifth-year Ross Bekkering was also successful from the line. He ventured their 14 times and nailed 12 of those shots despite being limited to 25 minutes of action because of foul trouble.

Dinos rookie point guard Jarred Ogungbemi-Jackson made his CIS championship debut in style, picking up 17 points — including a sequence where he sunk a three, then stole the inbound and scored two more points. Afterwards, he was modest about his play.

“I thought it was not bad,” he said. “We executed, I didn’t really turn the ball over too much, which I always worry about as a point guard, right? I thought I did okay.”

Dinos head coach Dan Vanhooren was more emphatic about Ogungbemi-Jackson’s play, adding that he rebounded well from a poor game in the Canada West final.

“I was proud of him like crazy. . . . In this game he played like a senior again. He’s talented and people are going to know his name in the future,” he said.

Last year, the Dinos suffered in their semi-final loss because the T-Birds outplayed them on the perimeter. This year, Vanhooren believes his guards are much quicker.

“[The Capers] would’ve really hurt us last year because we would’ve had Jamie [Mcleod] at the point all game long and that’s going to wear him down,” he said. “That makes things tough for us. Jarred’s quickness and [bench guard] Terrence [Blake]’s quickness on the floor really helps us.”

The Capers were the third-highest scoring offence in the CIS this season, but were held to only 32 points in the second half after the Dinos effectively used a three-two zone.

“Hubie Brown always said, ‘Press a pressing team,’ ” Vanhooren said. “. . . I thought [the three-two zone] really disrupted their tempo, got the shot clock down and maybe made them take some shots they weren’t ready to shoot. They weren’t able to get the ball to the guys they wanted to shoot the ball.”

Jimmy Dorsey, the Capers leading scorer during the regular season, was limited to just 26 minutes because of early fouls, though he picked up 19 points during that time, mostly from threes hit in the later stages in the game. The Capers were also hindered by the loss of CIS defensive player of the year Phillip Nkrumah, who played just 11 minutes after hitting the basket support. He jumped up to make an outstanding block, fell into the support hard, and didn’t play at all in the second half. Paris Carter chipped in 14 points before fouling out in the fourth for the Capers.

Four Dinos scored in the double digits including Sihota and Ogungbemi-Jackson. Bekkering had 14 points and six rebounds in limited action and third-year Tyler Fidler had 11 points.

The T-Birds took the only match-up between them and the Dinos this year during the regular season 79-71 in Calgary. UBC had only lost twice all year: once against the Simon Fraser University Clan during the regular season and again, critically, during the final four tournament in their home gym in overtime to the eventual Canada West champion University of Saskatchewan Huskies.

Game 2, Dinos versus T-Birds

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 last 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.”

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