Basketball celebrates seniors as regular season ends

Women clinch playoff spot despite losses, men end season strong but hoping for more

It was Seniors’ Night this past Saturday at the Investors Group Athletic Centre (IGAC), as both the women’s and men’s basketball squads celebrated long-time contributors by duelling against the University of British Columbia Okanagan (UBCO) Heat to close out CanWest regular season play.

Women’s team

Heading into play against the Heat, the women’s team was looking to lock down the 12th and final playoff spot. A single victory was all it needed to ensure it stayed above its rival, the University of Winnipeg (U of W) Wesmen, whom it swept the previous week.

In the first match, senior Lauren Bartlett played a herculean 40 minutes and orchestrated the herd’s offence masterfully, tossing many excellent passes that were illustrative of why she currently leads the CanWest conference in assists with an average of five per game.

Along with 17 points, she finished the night with nine more assists, pushing her career total to 352 — nine away from tying the Bison all-time record of 361.

Fellow senior Emily Johnson put up a Bison-high 20 points, adding five rebounds and four assists as well.

Freshman sensation Anna Miko also played quite well, chipping in with 16 points.

Despite these admirable Bison performances, UBCO’s Lauren Foullong was by far the best player in the gym.

Foullong nailed a whopping nine three-pointers, scoring 29 points on the night.

Ultimately, the herd could not keep pace with Foullong’s hot shooting, as it dropped the first game of the weekend 95-83.

Before the second match, the Bisons paid a touching tribute to a trio of seniors: Johnson, Talia Peters and Bartlett — all of whom started the game for head coach Michele Sung.

Nevertheless, despite a good deal of sentimentality swirling through ICAG for the three seniors, the herd came out flat in their final home game, as UBCO dominated, snatching an 85-64 victory.

Emerson Martin, however, was a bright spot for the herd, netting 12 points.

Bartlett, too, played well, scoring 17 once again. Even so, she fell short of the assists record, registering only five.

In their final games at IGAC, Johnson recorded 10 points while Peters chipped in with two.

The Bisons will finish the year with a 6-14 record.

The good news for this Bisons team is that it still clinched a playoff spot, as the U of W lost both of its games this past weekend. And the good news for Bartlett is that she’ll have at least one more crack at the record.

A couple of teams have make-up games in hand, which means the final CanWest women’s basketball tournament schedule cannot be released yet. Although, ostensibly, the Bisons will face off against the University of Regina Rams in the 12 vs. 5 matchup on Feb. 21 in Abbotsford, B.C., as the University of the Fraser Valley is hosting the tournament.

Men’s team

Before looking to move up the CanWest standings after a pair of difficult losses to rival U of W, the men’s team first had one senior to honour — namely, Wyatt Tait. Tait is currently a fifth-year player, who has played 1,536 minutes in a Bison uniform.

In the first game, Daren Watts continued his fine run of form, dropping 21 big points.

Logging big minutes, Mason Kraus also stepped up for the herd, scoring 13 points and distributing 5 assists. He also delivered the most exciting moment of the game: a chase-down block.

Indeed, Kraus’s brilliant chase-down block ignited both the herd and IGAC.

Riding that momentum, the herd went on to win the game 83-78.

In the second game, Kraus stole the show again, sinking five of six attempted three-pointers, finishing the night with 19 points and nabbing a couple of steals.
Moreover, the electric Kraus is now currently second in assists per game and tied for first in steals per game in the CanWest conference.

In his final regular season game at IGAC, Tait — a true “glue guy” — contributed with six points, three assists, five rebounds and his full slate of fouls.

The herd managed to hold off a pesky UBCO squad fighting for its playoff life, obtaining an 81-72 victory.

By sweeping UBCO, Manitoba secured a spot in the CanWest men’s basketball tournament, which it hosts on Feb. 21-25 at IGAC.

On a side note, coming off an injury scare in his last game, star player Simon Hildebrandt was quiet all weekend, mustering only one seven-point game and one six-point game. Doubtless, the herd will need him to be stellar in the tournament should it advance as far as it likely hopes to.

Overall, the herd finished the season with a solid record of 13-7.

Both the women’s and men’s teams’ next games will be during reading week in their respective CanWest basketball tournaments, with precise matchups and tournament schedules still to be announced, as a few teams have regular season games to make up.