Hampered by injury, the University of Winnipeg men’s basketball team returned home from their first foray into the Canada West final four last weekend with bronze medals around their necks.
On Saturday, March 2, the Wesmen beat Fraser Valley Cascades 90-84 for the third-place finish, with fifth-year guard Nolan Gooding leading the team with 21 points.
The Wesmen were playing without valuable fourth-year guard Andrew Cunningham, who suffered a wrist injury in the first quarter of a 72-59 loss to the Victoria Vikes on Friday, March 1.
Head Coach Mike Raimbault says the team is disappointed they weren’t able to qualify for the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) championships, but he’s happy they were able to secure a spot in the semi-finals and content with the way the team played.
“It went pretty decently, especially with Andrew Cunningham (being injured),” said Raimbault.
The Vikes, who the Wesmen narrowly defeated 64-61 earlier in the season, advanced to the gold medal game against University of British Columbia, scheduled for the end of this week.
The Wesmen made it into the final four by the scuff of their shoes, edging out the University of Alberta Golden Bears and the University of Manitoba Bisons in their last three games to qualify for the playoffs and finish the season at 14-8.
The Wesmen later beat the Trinity Western University Spartans in a tense best-of-three quarterfinal series Feb. 22 to 24.
Feeling confident of those wins, Raimbault said the Wesmen prepared for the semi-finals as they would for any other games.
“We did our regular scouting on the (Victoria) Vikes, prepared in the same way we always do” he said.
Despite Friday’s semi-final loss, Raimbault says his team played impressively both nights.
The coach accredits the successful season to a constantly progressing team, and positive player dynamics.
“We just continued to get better throughout the season,” he said. “We had some new guys that needed to get mixed in, but there’s a lot of unselfishness and really good team chemistry.”
Published in Volume 67, Number 22 of The Uniter (March 6, 2013)