Men’s Basketball: Cascades’ comeback comes up short, T-Birds seal series win in Game 3
A epic comeback effort came up just short for the University of the Fraser Valley men’s basketball team on Saturday evening, as they fell 85-73 to the UBC Thunderbirds in Game 3 of their Canada West quarter-final series.
The Cascades trailed by as many as 18 points in the first half at War Memorial Gym, but battled all the way back to within five points with six minutes left in regulation.
The U SPORTS No. 6-ranked T-Birds fended them off down the stretch, however, earning a semifinal date with the Alberta Golden Bears and ending the Cascades’ season in the process.
Andrew Morris poured in a team-high 23 points (10-of-18 shooting from the field) and eight rebounds, Parm Bains posted 16 points and five assists, Mark Johnson scored 13, and Sukhjot Bains contributed nine points and six boards for the Cascades.
Manroop Clair led the way for the T-Birds, scoring 23 of his game-high 29 points in the first half, Jadon Cohee scored 20, and a foul-plagued Grant Shephard managed 14 points.
“We’ve been showing character all season,” Cascades head coach Adam Friesen said afterward. “It’s become who this group is, and who we want to continue to be moving forward. Things looked tough in the first quarter. But we were determined to keep going and believed we could make things interesting. And that’s what we did.”
The T-Birds came out flying, building a 26-10 at the end of the first quarter. Clair lit the fuse, scoring eight straight points in a stretch, highlighted by a pair of triples.
Clair would continue to cook in the second as the hosts stretched the lead as high as 18 points. His 23 first-half points included 4-for-6 shooting from beyond the arc and 7-for-7 from the free throw line. Morris helped keep the Cascades in it, scoring 10 points over the opening 20 minutes as UBC led 46-30.
The Cascades’ offence caught fire in the third quarter – they racked up 27 points in the frame, and were able to trim the deficit to single digits. Johnson scored eight points in the frame, and Parm Bains had seven to spark the comeback. The T-Birds, meanwhile, saw star centre Shephard pick up his fourth foul with 3:32 left in the frame, sending him to the bench.
UFV continued to surge in the fourth, and after Parm Bains left a defender in his wake on the perimeter and scored at the rim, the UBC lead was 74-69 with six minutes left on the clock.
The Cascades got stops on UBC’s next two possessions, but failed to capitalize at the offensive end as a pair of shots rimmed out – a Nav Bains drop-step in the post, and a Johnson triple.
Cohee would eventually give the T-Birds some breathing room, knocking down a midrange jump shot followed by a layup on the next UBC possession, and the hosts were able to keep the Cascades at bay down the stretch.
Rebounding was a pivotal statistic in this game. The Cascades had essentially battled UBC to a stalemate on the boards over Games 1 and 2, but the T-Birds out-rebounded the Cascades 47-33 on Saturday.
The result marked the conclusion of Johnson, Morris and Nav Bains’s Cascades careers. All three are wrapping up their fifth and final seasons of eligibility.
“Our three seniors provided so much leadership throughout the year, both on and of the court, and gave every ounce of energy, spirit, and hard work they could muster up,” Friesen said. “We wouldn’t have had the season we ended up having without them leading this group.”
Nav Bains has been the Cascades’ emotional leader throughout the season, and his fiery talk at halftime helped spark the comeback.
“Nav gave us that emotion, gave us that fire,” Morris related. “He’s an amazing leader, and an amazing person.
“We looked each other in the eyes, held each other accountable and said we’re not going out like this. We gave it everything we had, and it’s just a little short tonight. But at the end of the day, we’re all proud of each other, we all love each other, we’re all brothers.”
“The guys really responded,” Bains said, reflecting on his words at halftime. “I could see in their eyes – they didn’t want to go quietly, they didn’t want to back down. I was really proud of the guys for coming out the way they did . . . they showed a lot of heart.
“I loved playing for Adam. He’s been an amazing coach and mentor to me – he’s helped me out so much, and I wouldn’t be where I am without him. I’m just going to miss being with the team – going to practice every day, the whole routine. It’ll take some getting used to. But I’m looking forward to what the next chapter holds.”
Johnson, reflecting on what turned out to be his final game, said the Cascades battled some nerves early before finding their groove in the second half.
“We didn’t want to go down without a fight,” he said. “We went on a couple of runs, got a couple stops, got back in the game. We just couldn’t get that secondary stop or secondary rebound. But I’m really proud of my team. We fought as hard as we could, and it’s been a great season.
“No regrets. I’ve had a great career here, I’ve had tons of fun, and we left it all out there tonight.”