By Christie Melhorn, February 2 2018 —
After taking down the Mount Royal University Cougars 107–54 during the first half of Pack the Jack on Feb. 1, Dinos women’s basketball set a high bar for the men’s team. But the men were up to the task, immediately sinking the game’s first baskets with fast footwork and team cohesion.
Despite heavy turnovers, the Dinos entered the first quarter strong with a lay-up by fourth-year guard David Kapinga. The team’s smooth ball-handling skills consistently set up fourth-year guard Mambi Diawara and Kapinga for success, scoring eight and six points respectively, each with a perfect shot accuracy rate. The crowded stands exploded with energy when Diawara landed a dunk, fueling the team to a 24–16 close at the end of the first quarter.
The Dinos blazed through the second quarter despite MRU’s robust defence and aggressive steals. The Dinos capitalized on every open path to the hoop and recaptured the ball as quickly as they lost it. Immediately after sinking a two-pointer, fifth-year guard Jhony Verrone snatched the ball from MRU and nailed a lay-up. While each Dino on the court shined and almost every player scored multiple points, Kapinga stole the show when he managed two steals and two assists followed by sinking a two-pointer without missing a beat. MRU put up a valiant effort and tore to the basket but struggled to break through the Dinos’ solid defence. At the end of the second, the Dinos were up 51–35.
Assistant coach Matt Skinn says the team’s pace and ability to harness every opportunity contributed to their success.
“There was a bit of nervous energy to start the game but the guys settled down and really relished in it. We put together possessions with a lot of stops in a row where we were able to capitalize on the other end,” Skinn said. “Our defensive pressure in spurts was really good and created a lot of turnovers. Offensively we were also able to get a lot of open looks.”
Clean passes and relentless plays on the rebound characterized the Dinos’ third quarter. Fourth-year guard Lucas Mannes shone. He landed his third three-pointer and held a 70 per cent shot accuracy rate, accumulating a total of 18 points. Diawara resurrected his scoring touch from the first period, placing him as the lead scorer of the game with 20 points and boosting the Dinos to 73–48 by the end of the third.
The Dinos continued to build off their incredible game in the last quarter. Fourth-year forward Lars Schlueter fired up the crowd with a stylish dunk and Mannes remained a lead scorer both within and outside of the paint. With seven-and-a-half minutes left on the clock, the Dinos demonstrated flare after completing two consecutive alley-oops from Schlueter and fifth-year forward Connor Foreman. The Cougars tried to recover with convincing dekes but were quick to be stuffed or boxed out from under the basket by the Dinos. MRU’s shots that made it to the basket kept swirling out of the rim and back into the Dinos hands. The Dinos capped off the game 94–68.
Kapinga credits the team’s phenomenal performance to effective communication skills and their close bond.
“Coach always says it’s not his shot, it’s the team’s shot. We focus on moving the ball, passing a lot and creating opportunities,” Kapinga said. “Communication is huge. You can’t read someone’s mind.”
Kapinga wants to carry their fluid dynamic and positive energy into the second half of their back-to-back set against the Cougars.
“Defence and communication is key for tomorrow’s game. Today, we had a lot of energy from the crowd but we may not have that tomorrow,” he said. “We need to bring our energy and feel it from our bench. Our bench is always celebrating after every point. Our team is family. It makes it super easy to play.”
The Dinos hit Kenyon Court at MRU at 8 p.m. on Feb. 2. They will play again on Feb. 16 in the Canada West quarterfinals in the Jack Simpson Gym. More details on playoffs will be released in the following days.