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Season ends in PACWEST Quarterfinal

Photo courtesy Northfield Photography
Photo courtesy Northfield Photography

In game with 14 ties and 12 lead changes, it was the Capilano University Blues men's basketball team who ended up on the losing side of a 71-69 decision against the Camosun College Chargers in the quarterfinals of the PACWEST Basketball Championships, ending their 2017-18 season.

All three regular season matchups between CapU and Camosun were close, low-scoring affairs, and Thursday night’s quarterfinal proved no different. The score was 11-10 for the Chargers after the first quarter, with both teams missing some shots from in close. Capilano, ranked fifth in the tournament, also lost fourth-year guard Hassan Phills to injury in the frame, leaving them without arguably their most dynamic player.

The first lead change came early in the second frame when a CJ Campbell three-pointer put CapU up 15-13, but fourth-seeded Camosun went on a run that pushed their lead to eight – their largest lead of the game. The Blues trailed 32-26 at the half, having shot just 27.8 percent from the floor and 14.3 percent (1-for-7) from beyond the arc. Campbell had 11 points at the break, helping replace Phills’ production.

Capilano’s veterans stepped up out of halftime, as third-year Brenden Bailey hit a three to start the frame and Denver Sparks-Guest followed with eight-straight points to put Capilano back in front. From that point on it went back-and-forth to the end, with the score tied at 49 after three quarters.

The Blues found success attacking the rim throughout the second half, and got Camosun’s forwards into foul trouble. Sparks-Guest, fresh off of being named a PACWEST First Team All-Star, continued to get stronger as the game went on, and converted a lay-up plus the foul to put Capilano up 60-57 with under six minutes to play.

Capilano had chances to build up a two-possession lead down the stretch, but missed some open threes and free throws. The Chargers hung around, and tied the game at 59 with four minutes left. After Camosun then retook the lead, a Nathan Bromige jumper tied things up at 63 with 1:30 to go. A crucial moment soon followed, as the Chargers responded with a lay-up to go back in front, and then stole the inbound pass and scored again to quickly give them a two-possession lead at 67-63.

The two sides traded baskets in the final minute, and a Sparks-Guest three-pointer made it 70-69 in the final seconds. Camosun hit a free throw to restore a two-point cushion with six seconds to go, and then a last-second game-tying attempt by Sparks-Guest nearly missed – giving Camosun the victory.

Sparks-Guest had 24 points – 20 of which came in the second half – and 10 rebounds, and was named Capilano’s Player of the Game. Campbell had 15 points off the bench, and Wowie Untalan had 11 to go along with five assists and two steals.

Capilano forced over 20 turnovers in each of their last two meetings against Camosun, but the Chargers committed only nine last night, compared to 19 assists; Capilano posted an identical 9-19 turnover-to-assist ratio. The two sides posted nearly identical stats across the board, with the biggest differences coming at the free throw line – where Capilano shot 9-of-16 (56.3%) and Camosun shot 16-of-22 (72.7%) – and second chance points, where the Chargers had a 12-3 advantage.

The season comes to a close for the CapU men’s basketball team, as they fail to make the semifinals for the first time since 2012-13 and improve on last season's silver medal. The Blues will look to return a strong core next season, with no graduating fifth-years and six first-years on their current roster.