BURNABY — Was there a university basketball team in North America who needed a second chance at a first win more than the Simon Fraser Clan?
The 0-15 record in GNAC conference play.
The 74-73 loss Thursday to Concordia in which it fell on a four-point play from the free throw line with 1.8 seconds remaining.
For Simon Fraser, however, salvation came Saturday night in the form of second-chance opportunities generated by its hustle on the offensive glass.
The Clan beat up visiting Western Oregon with 21 offensive rebounds, 13 above its season average, and out-scored the Wolves 19-6 in second-chance points to win 68-63.
The victory represented not only the team’s first conference win of the season, but it’s the first win in the GNAC in 365 days.
Last season, the Clan’s only league win came last Feb. 11 in Portland when it won 90-70 over Concordia.
The win also marked two years shy one day, the Clan’s last home conference win, that a 92-88 win in the West Gym over Northwest Nazarene on Feb. 12, 2015.
“Rebounding is all effort and heart,” said Steve Hanson, smiling after gaining his first-ever GNAC win as the Clan’s head coach. “Iziah (Sherman-Newsome) was a beast on the boards, JJ (Pankratz) got some huge tips and deflections and the minutes we got tonight from Tyrell (Lewin) were huge.”
While team scoring leader Kedar Wright was scoring a game-high 19 points, and point guard Michael Provenzano was finding his groove late after two quick fouls to add 12, it was the overall hustle and spirit of the group that carried it to victory.
Sherman-Newsome finished with 17 points and 11 rebounds, seven off the offensive glass in 35 minutes; Pankratz was a true disrupter on the defensive end over 29 minutes, and Lewin, so often plagued with early foul problems, stayed the course with 21 valuable front-court minutes in which he grabbed four offensive rebounds.
“I didn’t think that we were going to be a playoff team this year, so it’s good to get it done because of Thursday and three or four other (close losses),” added Hanson. “And we did it against a quality team.”
And they did it without flinching, it’s three-point lead over the Wolves with just a minute remaining eerily similar to the one it had faced 48 hours pervious against Concordia.
Sherman-Newsome’s three-pointer with 1:41 remaining made it 64-59, and a trio of free throws by Provenzano made it 67-61 with 17 seconds remaining.
A key turning point in the game came with 8:51 remaining when the Wolves’ Mr. Everything, 6-foot-3 junior forward Tanner Omlid, fouled out the game.
The team’s leading scorer, who is also the NCAA D2 leader in steals and sits fifth in the GNAC in blocks, departed with 13 points, 11 blocks and three steals.
SFU, trailing 50-46 at the time, closed the game on a 22-13 run.
“It’s a signal of our character, that we came out strong, wanted a win, and got it,” said Wright, who in addition to his 19 points had 11 rebounds, three blocks and two steals in 36 minutes. “I’ve been on winning and losing teams before, but the most important thing is to maintain your professionalism. You have to come out with the same energy every time, and we did that tonight, even after our last game.”
The game, billed as West Gym White-Out night, was played in front of a sell-out crowd of just under 1,000 fans.
“It’s great to win a game in front of a big crowd and then sign autographs afterwards,” said Hanson, who was co-coach of the senior boys high school varsity team at PoCo’s Terry Fox Secondary the last time SFU won a GNAC game at home.
Ali Faruq-Bey led the Wolves with 16 points.
SFU plays at Northwest Nazarene and Central Washington this coming week before returning for its final two games of the regular season Feb. 23 vs. St. Martin’s and Feb. 25 vs. Seattle Pacific.