Watching Dinos men's basketball lately has been like launching a slinky: upon first observation, it seems flimsy and full of kinks, but when you finally let go the whole thing gains momentum and slowly but deliberately progresses. The whole process becomes mesmerizing to observe. The more it inches forward, the more uneasy you are that it will all come tumbling down.
Well holy pickle garnish Batman, the Dinos pulled through their third straight game, beating off the Thompson Rivers University WolfPack Jan. 27-28. As they approach their most crucial game of the season, the Dinos now carry a big stick of confidence. Batteries not included.
Of course, none of this comes as a shock to head coach Dan Vanhooren. Prior to the matches in Kamloops, he was collected and determined, seeing each game as a challenge.
"If we pull through these games, that will be the confidence and momentum we need for Lethbridge," he said.
And pull through they did, coming 'round the mountain and winning both games by more than 10 points.
"It's their first year in Canadian Interuniversity Sport," Ross (Rosco) Bekkering pointed out. "So they were pretty talented for a college team. But they had some difficulties in the post position. They were a team that played hard. But all-in-all we were the better team."
Despite the WolfPack's efforts, the Dinos' carried momentum from the previous weekend to continue their winning streak.
In fact, Josh Feist arguably played his most electric games yet. On Friday, he was the firecracker that could, hauling in 22 points and six assists while teammate Brian Finniss donated another 20 points and four assists with more silkiness than a Pantene Pro-V ad.
"We had to treat them like playoff games because it's so close right now," Finniss said of the positive weekend results. "Every game is pretty much a win for us."
Chris Wright followed up the cavalry as always with 15 sharp shots. A rebound here, a steal there and the Dinos slaughtered themselves an 89-70 victory.
Saturday seemed to be all about self improvement--a warm up for the weeks to come. As the Dinos sealed a lead from the very beginning, the only thing casting doubt over the weekend sweep was James Frey's account.
As TRU players Greg Stewart and Brent Taxel fouled out of the pack, the Dinos painted the points on thicker than oil in Iraq. Yet, in typical Dino fashion, Finniss saw ways the team could improve.
"We gave up 52 points in the second half," he admitted, "which is not where we wanted to be at the end of the season. But, a W is a W right now."
Finniss stirred in a leading total of 20 points and four assists, while Rosco, now third in Canada West for rebounds, added 18 points and 14 rebounds to the mix. Cooked with 17 points and eight assists from Feist, you get a piping hot 98-85 victory. Mmm-mmm-good.
The Dinos' season has improved to 7-9, making their Fri., Feb. 3 away game against the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns the heart of the season. Blood pressures will be high as the Dinos desperately chase a playoff spot. The Pronghorns are 6-10 this season, making a win vital for them as well. The teams meet again Sat., Feb. 4 in the Jack for what could be senior and captain Wright's last home game.
Despite the loss of Wright as a top post player and leader of the team, Vanhooren is confident about the seasons to come.
"The team is just going to build from here," he foretells. "By the time Ross is in his third year, we'll be a golden team."
"I'm still focused on this season" said Bekkering. "Doing the best we can is all we can do right now so, hopefully, our season ends how we want it to end."
But for right now, Mr. Vanhooren just wants his players back and healthy. This will be essential as the Dinos go after the University of Alberta Golden Bears for the second slot in their division and a shot at making playoffs. The glass is only half-full.