CJ Pentland, CapU Sport Information Director
Powered by a strong second quarter and 29 points from Brenden Bailey, the Capilano University Blues men’s basketball team held off a late comeback by the Okanagan College Coyotes and punched their ticket to the semifinals of the PACWEST Championships with an 80-74 win on Thursday afternoon in New Westminster.
CapU entered the quarterfinal as the tournament’s #3 seed, but had lost their prior two meetings with the #6 Coyotes two weeks ago. And OC again had the early advantage on Thursday, leading 20-17 after one quarter.
The second quarter proved pivotal, as it allowed the Blues to build up a lead and hold off a second half push by the Coyotes. CapU locked down on defence and outscored the Coyotes 22-10 in the frame to take a 39-30 lead into halftime, but after a brief 11-point lead, the Coyotes hung around and eventually cut the deficit down to one midway through the fourth.
The Blues remained calm and always found an answer thanks to clutch three-pointers and steady free throw shooting. Michael Kelly hit a three with five minutes to play that restored a four-point lead, and Niko Mottus hit one of his three triples with two minutes left to but the Blues up by five. Bailey then scored Capilano’s last eight points of the game, which included going 6-for-6 from the charity stripe to seal the win.
Bailey was named Player of the Game for CapU, finishing with 29 points, six rebounds and a steal, and overall helping control the team on both ends of the court.
“Today he was really good,” said head coach Cassidy Kannemeyer to Ryan Watters of the PACWEST. “Brenden controlled the pace in the first quarter and got us off to a good start, and I thought he did a commendable job on the ball.”
The Blues lost the rebounding battle in their prior two defeats to OC, but on Thursday they did a much better job on the glass – outrebounding them 15-9 on the offensive boards. Grady Huskisson led the charge, totaling 11 rebounds to go along with seven points. CapU also forced 18 turnovers and committed just seven, and shot a steady 85.7% from the free throw line.
“The parity in the league is at what I’d say is an all-time high,” said Kannemeyer in response to the tough test from the #6 seed. “VIU is obviously the top team and they have the top record, and they’ve been pretty dominant at times this year, but [seeds] two through six has been close every game … a lot of one bucket, two bucket games between those five teams, and the league is in a really good place. Hopefully we can sustain that because it makes for really exciting basketball.”
The Blues will now face the host and #2 seed Douglas College Royals in the semifinals on Friday at 3:00pm in New Westminster. The Royals won their season series 2-1 and finished with one more win in the regular season standings.
“We don’t have to change much,” said Kannemeyer. “They’re also big and strong. We have the speed advantage on them I think, but I’m going to have to watch some tape tonight and see if there’s anything I can tell our guys to give them a bit of an advantage tomorrow because I assume that it’s going to be a raucous home crowd.”
All tournament games can be streamed online at pacwestbc.tv.