By Tommy Osborne, February 28 2017 —
On Feb. 23, the University of Calgary Dinos men’s basketball team defeated the Thompson Rivers University WolfPack 75–71 in a hard fought nailbiter. The Dinos struck first in the best of three series of the first round of the Canada West playoffs. They carried that momentum forward in the following game to take a 76–68 victory over TRU and advance to the Canada West Final Four.
The Dinos started out on a 16-point run to build a commanding 23–12 lead by the end of the first quarter. Fifth-year guard Thomas Cooper was unstoppable in the first, scoring 12 of the Dinos’ 23 points. The good times kept rolling for the Dinos in the second quarter, as they continued to limit TRU’s offence. The Dinos ended the first half in style, with three steals that led to fast-break layups and dunks within the final minute of the quarter. With an electric offence and stifling defence, the Dinos looked poised to continue their dominance in the second half.
But TRU had other plans. The WolfPack started the third quarter with a bang, going on an 18-point run fueled by smart passing and some Dinos defensive lapses. The WolfPack brought the score to a narrow 47–46. But despite the WolfPack’s tenacity, third-year guard David Kapinga preserved the Dinos lead with an impressive twisting layup. When the WolfPack brought it back to a one-point game again with a score of 52–51, Kapinga sunk a clutch three-point shot to prevent the WolfPack from taking the advantage. Overall, the Dinos were outscored 24–9 in the third quarter.
When faced with adversity, the Dinos responded. Heading into the fourth quarter with only a four-point advantage — compared to the 19-point advantage they had heading into the third — the whole team stepped up to keep the WolfPack at bay and win the game 75–71. Kapinga credited the Dinos’ experience in tight playoff situations for their ability to rebound from a disastrous third quarter.
“I think it’s just experience. We went pretty far last year, we battled a lot and we had a lot of games where we had to battle,” he said. “It’s just about knowing, experience, pushing and just staying consistent.”
Kapinga was clutch for the Dinos in the fourth quarter, scoring 12 of the Dinos’ 23 points to secure the victory. He also added much needed tenacity on defence that prevented the WolfPack from taking the lead. Kapinga credited his fourth-quarter heroics to the team and head coach Dan Vanhooren.
“I think in the first half I was getting the same looks as in the second half, it was just that they weren’t falling in the first half, so coach kept telling me ‘Next one’s going in,” he said. “Confidence came from my teammates, on the bench they were telling me, ‘Don’t worry, you’ll get the next one’ and they just started falling.”
Vanhooren was pleased with Kapinga’s performance, calling him an “unrecognized all-star.”
“It’s a shame that a player with that level of talent doesn’t get recognized by our league in that fashion,” he said. “I think that he’s clearly one of the better players in the league and he showed that in the fourth quarter. He’s an all-star in my mind.”
In game two, the Dinos started strong with an early 16–8 lead halfway through the first quarter, but TRU rebounded quickly, outscoring the Dinos by the end of the first. With the WolfPack leading into the second, the Dinos had a lot to make up for late in the game.
An impressive run in the final stretch of the series gave the Dinos a one-point lead of 67–66 midway through the third quarter. Three free throws by Mitch Ligertwood and a layup from Jhony Verrone made the game 74–68 with less than a minute left in the fourth quarter. Cooper polished off the game with two more free throws, ultimately giving the Dinos an eight-point win.
With the Dinos taking both games against the WolfPack, they’ll prepare to host the Canada West Final Four against the University of Manitoba Bisons on March 3 at 8:00 p.m. in the Jack Simpson Gymnasium.