EDMONTON - In the final game of the Canada West regular season, the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns defeated the No. 7 University of Alberta Golden Bears 96-94 in double overtime, Sunday night at Saville Community Sports Centre.
With a win, the Golden Bears would have finished first overall in Canada West, but were denied following the double OT stinger. Alberta instead finish’s third with a 14-6 record and a 0.6008 RPI, behind the 16-4 Calgary Dinos and 14-6 Saskatchewan Huskies. Despite their 19-1 record, the UBC Thunderbirds finish fourth in Canada West based off their 0.5975 RPI ranking.
Regardless of Sunday’s outcome, Lethbridge ends the regular season in sixth place with a 13-7 record and a 0.5190 RPI ranking. The Pronghorns will host the 9-11 Victoria Vikes next weekend in the conference play-in series, with the winner advancing to the Canada West quarter-final, and a meeting with the Golden Bears.
Even with the No. 1 seed on the line on Sunday, the Golden Bears chose to play a majority of the game with their bench players. Alberta’s bench accounted for 67 of their 94 points, with fifth-year Brett Roughead the only starter with more than 10 points and 20 minutes played. Roughead, in fact, finished with a career-high 14 points and 15 rebounds in his final conference game.
Andre Kelly also recorded a career-high with 23 points off the bench on Sunday, which was also a game-high. Cole Knudsen also tallied a career-high for the Bears on Sunday, dropping in 12 points on 6-14 shooting, and pulling in nine boards in 32 minutes.
Similar to the Bears, the ‘Horns used their bench for a most of the match, with 63 of their 96 points coming from the backups. Brett Warren led Lethbridge with 17 points, while DeAngelo Ashley earned a double-double with 13 points and 13 rebounds.
The high-flying Bears offence took flight in the opening quarter, scoring 25 points on 9-20 shooting. Roughead put in six of his 14 in the first, shooting 50% and making both of his free throws. Despite the strong start, seven points from Mike Pierzchala kept the ‘Horns within reach trailing by just six after one.
The Pronghorn’s offence went ice cold in the second, as they scored just nine points to the Bears 18, and fell behind by 15 at halftime.
Even with the regular starters on the bench, the Bears were able to generate leads of 18 and 16, going up by 51-36 at one point in the third, and entering the final quarter up 57-43.
However, hoping to end the regular season on a high, Lethbridge queued the comeback early in the fourth quarter. Down by 14 entering the final frame, the ‘Horns caught fire, hitting on nearly 50% of their shots, while the Bears connected on just five of 19 shots. Although they were outscored 26-12 in the fourth, with 11 points from Warren himself, the Bears had an opportunity to win the game on the final possession. Kelly, however, couldn’t hit the 10 foot jumper with no time left, sending the game to OT tied at 69.
Lethbridge was able to generate their first lead of the game in OT, going up 76-74, with the teams going back-and-forth, setting up a wild final few seconds. Once again with a chance to win the game, Kelly found Ivan Ikomey open in the corner, who drilled a long distance three with 0.5 seconds left on the game clock. The Horn’s however, were able to tie the game up with a seemingly impossible three pointer from the corner, as Scott Mazutinec drained the corner three with no time left on the clock, sending the game to a second overtime.
Neither team held a lead of more than four in 2OT, with a Warren free throw late giving Lethbridge a 96-94 lead. Alberta’s third chance to win the game came up long, as Ikomey couldn’t knock down the game-winning triple with no time left.
The Bears will now wait at home for the winner of that Lethbridge/Victoria play-in series, with the best-of-three quarter-final taking place at Saville Community Sports Centre February 23-25th.