UNBC defeats Vancouver Island in defensive war to claim PacWest Gold!
NPH Top Performers
- Francis Rowe: 16 points, 3 rebounds
- Sam Raphael: 16 points, 11 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals
- Joel Rybachuk: 12 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists
- Jacob Thom: 15 points, 7 assists, 4 rebounds, 4 steals
- Brandon Jones: 15 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists
- Richard Townsend-Gant: 15 points, 8 rebounds
North Vancouver, B.C. — As the VIU Mariners and UNBC Timberwolves stepped onto the hardwood inside Capilano University’s Sportsplex, all outside factors – rankings, statistics, experience and history – were abandoned at the front doors.
When stripped down to it’s rawest form, the men’s PacWest gold medal game on Saturday night was a gritty melee full of emotion; one that featured two elite teams looking to end the debate of who truly is B.C.’s best in 2012.
In a contest that had no buzzer beater finishes, no lead changes and no ties after the 0-0 tipoff, it was still as exciting as they come, with UNBC pulling out a 69-61 victory to capture gold and claim their spot in the CCAA National Championships.
“When you’re going to win championships, you got to play defence,” said Timberwolves head coach Todd Jordan. “We kept them from getting a lot of easy stuff, we followed the defensive game plan really really well, and now we’re champions and it feels pretty good.”
UNBC came out on fire in the first quarter, hitting four quick threes and jumping out to a 23-10 lead at the break. It was at this point that I began to prepare myself for Jacob Thom to take the game over. The fifth-year guard hadn’t scored a point in the first quarter, and I was positive that he’d start to dominate on a stage that was tailor made for a guy like him who thrives in big moments.
But it never happened. The second quarter ended, and despite a plus-five in quarter scoring for the Mariners, Thom had made just one field goal.
“Sam Raphael played an awesome game on Thom,” said Joel Rybachuk, who was awarded player of the game for his 12 point, four rebound and four assist performance. “Sam’s long, he gets in Thom’s shorts and makes it really tough for him.”
As the heart of VIU, Thom’s noticeably frustrating play created a ripple-effect for his teammates in the early minutes, but the Mariners found their groove in the second quarter, and the battle of who could stop playing lockdown defence began to tip in VIU’s favour.
The Mariners closed the gap to within one possession after a 6-0 run to start the second, and continued to try their best at keeping it close by not allowing the deficit to reach double digits.
After an stalemate of a third quarter, the Mariners pulled within one point on a breakaway layup by Clayton Billett with just over two minutes remaining in the final frame – but UNBC responded with six unanswered points to give them the crunch-time insurance they needed.
Yet even with a decent lead towards the end of the game, Jordan didn’t feel the least bit comfortable.
“Not even for a second,” he said. “Maybe when there was about 19 seconds left and we were up eight. They’ve got horses – guys that can really make plays. Jacob’s a heck of a player and [Richard Townsend-] Gant’s a heck of a player, so we had to defend the full 40 minutes to win tonight.”
Thom, Gant, and third-year point guard Brandon Jones each finished with 15 points in what was a low scoring affair for two teams that have reached triple digits more than once this season.
VIU’s head coach Tony Bryce, in his last game as the Mariner’s bench boss, credits his team for not relenting even though they were forced to battle from behind all night.
“I’m very proud of my guys and I don’t think it was an effort thing,” he said. “I thought UNBC just did a great job. They hit some shots, we didn’t, and full credit to them for taking us out of what we try to do.”
UNBC now has two weeks off to prepare for the CCAA National Championships at Nova Scotia Agricultural College in Truro, N.S. from March 15-17. But it’s clear that this outcome wasn’t without its faults.
“In the first half I thought we had some mental breakdowns and took some stupid fouls and stupid technicals that led to VIU going to the free-throw line,” said Jordan.
He might be referring to a situation halfway through the second quarter where the Timberwolves centre Kevan Madsen was subbed off after picking up his second foul. Madsen got within a foot of sitting down, but instead punted the foldable chair three rows up into the stands and drilled an unsuspecting – and soon very angry – fan.
“Moving forward, we just can’t have any of the mental lapses that we had in the first two quarters.”
And for the players, a rather calm post-game celebration was indicative of what still lies ahead.
“VIU’s a great team, and with them beating us twice this year, it feels good to get this done,” said Rybachuk. “But we know deep in our hearts that we have to grind for two weeks of practice and go face the best teams in the nation – so this is just a stepping stone.”
2012 PacWest Championships
Gold – UNBC
Silver – VIU
Bronze – Camosun
4th Place – Capilano
5th Place – Langara
6th Place – Douglas
Tournament MVP: Francis Rowe – UNBC
All-stars: Patrick McCarthy – VIU
Jacob Thom – VIU
Jose Araujo – UNBC
James Lum – Capilano
James Blandford – Camosun