ABBOTSFORD — On a night when one of the biggest coaching records in Canadian university basketball sat on the precipice of falling, a home underdog determined to have a night of its own dug deep and played the role of spoiler, in the process illuminating just how hard it actually is to win games in this challenging league known as the Canada West.
The UBC Thunderbirds came into play Saturday night here at the Envision Athletic Centre knowing full well that a victory over the hometown Fraser Valley Cascades would move its longtime head coach Kevin Hanson into the top spot all-time in Canada West regular season conference wins with 314, one more than former longtime Alberta Golden Bears head coach Don Horwood.
Alas, the Cascades (4-6) came through with a clutch show of rebounding and defence to win 84-82 over the Birds (9-3), shining over the final possession of the game where the likes of Daniel Adediran, Matt Cooley and Sukhjot Bains displayed the perfect blend of positioning in the paint, tipping and altering a series of UBC shots, any of which could have sent the game into overtime.
Afterwards, there was not shortage of respect and homage being paid by the opposition when it came time to recognizing Hanson’s career portfolio.
“He will crush that record if he chooses to,” said classy UFV head coach Adam Friesen, who played one season (2006-07) under Hanson at UBC. “He has shown such great consistency and coaching excellence. He’ll get it, and congratulations to him when the time comes.”
From the Cascades perspective, however, Saturday was the silver-lining moment in a season littered with close losses, some of which have come in the very same situations UFV was able to battle through and win before an appreciative home crowd.
With 9.8 seconds remaining and UBC in possession of the basketball trailing by two, a three-point shot for the victory by the ‘Birds Manroop Clair went strong off the back iron and into the hands of teammate Zack Moore who was unable to finish a bank shot high off the window.
The carom, however, came dangerously close to being converted at the buzzer by UBC’s big man Grant Shephard but seemed to be either tipped or deflected by each of the Cascades’ trio of Bains, Cooley and Adediran.
“We challenged the guys to show more toughness on the defensive side… a real sense of urgency,” said Friesen. “And on that last possession five guys were battling, tipping, trying to grab the basketball. We haven’t done that all season. We’ve lost some close ones and it’s been because of hustle plays and battles at the rim. Tonight, we showed up and we met the challenge.”
Added Adediran of the human curtain the Cascades draped around Shephard at the buzzer: “I think on that last play, Grant saw eight hands in there.”
And if this is indeed a turning point in the Cascades’ season, perhaps it has come with a show of newfound offensive depth ready to answer the bell on a more regular basis.
Guard Vick Toor came into Saturday’s game averaging 9.2 ppg, but finishing with a game-high 19 to go along with seven rebounds, four assists and three steals.
And Adediran, averaging 5.3 ppg, had a most impressive double-double with 18 points and 13 rebounds.
His decisive dribble-drive move in the paint for a key lay-in with 1:44 remaining was huge, giving UFV an 80-77 lead.
Said fifth-year guard and team leader Parm Bains: “Those two guys were huge, especially Daniel down the stretch. That take to the hoop was the biggest bucket of the game for us because it put us up three with just over a minute to go.”
Bains was no slouch himself, scoring 15 points while battling through a 3-of-11 night from the floor. And afterwards, he put the scope of victory into the kind of perspective that only a fifth-year player could.
“It means so much,” he began. “This is probably the most fulfilling regular-season win I have had here at UFV.”
And on a night when a coaching milestone was put on ice for another week, we all gained an even greater appreciation of just how tough it is to win one game in this conference, let alone 313.
EXTRAS — UBC’s five starters all hit double figures in scoring with 17 from Clair, 14 each from Taylor Browne and Moore, 13 from Jadon Cohee and 12 from Shephard. Jaskam Bajwa added 11 for the Cascades, while Cooley had eight points and seven rebounds.
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