The University of the Fraser Valley men’s basketball team secured the second Canada West podium finish in program history on Saturday evening, blowing out the UBC Thunderbirds 87-71 in the conference bronze medal game in Saskatoon.
Third-year point guard Manny Dulay, held scoreless in the Cascades’ semifinal loss to the Victoria Vikes on Friday, bounced back with a huge outing. His team-high 18 points came exclusively on three-pointers – he went 6-for-11 from downtown, with many of them coming at critical junctures to swing the momentum back in UFV’s favour.
Dulay was but one of the Cascades’ standouts on this night – four other players scored at least 15 points, including Nate Brown (17), Kadeem Willis (16), Kevon Parchment (15) and Dominique Brooks (15).
“We showed a lot of character,” Cascades head coach Adam Friesen said. “These (bronze medal) games can be tough to play in, but starting with our fifth-years, the character of our group really shone through today. We wanted to get a bronze medal and end on a win.”
The Cascades, whose previous Canada West medal was a silver in 2012, were eligible for selection for the final at-large berth to the CIS Final 8 national championship tournament. That bid ended up going to the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) bronze medalist Ottawa GeeGees, who were ranked No. 1 or No. 2 in all 13 weekly CIS coaches’ polls this season but suffered an upset loss to the Windsor Lancers in the OUA semis on Friday.
Even so, a conference bronze medal was a terrific accomplishment for fifth-year seniors Willis and Jasper Moedt to end their careers with.
“Last night was a pretty tough loss,” acknowledged Moedt, who registered six points and seven rebounds vs. UBC while playing his usual brand of stellar interior defence. “But it was important for us to go out and get that win and prove to the rest of the country that we belonged in the Final Four.
“You just reflect on it and realize how important it is to come away with that medal.”
Kedar Wright led the T-Birds in the loss with a game-high 19 points off the bench, while Tommy Nixon scored 18 and Tonner Jackson had 14.
UBC built a seven-point lead early in the second quarter, but the Cascades took over at that point, reeling off a 13-0 run highlighted by a rare four-point play (hitting a three-pointer while being fouled, plus the free throw) from Willis. UFV led by as many as 12 points late in the frame, and took a 42-32 edge into halftime.
The Cascades opened the third quarter on a 13-5 spurt to expand the lead to 18, and while the T-Birds would make a run to get the deficit down to seven points early in the fourth, Dulay answered with treys on back-to-back possessions to boost the cushion back into double digits. UBC never threatened again.
“Manny’s been learning the point guard role for us this year, balancing being aggressive with being a playmaker,” Friesen said. “But when he’s aggressive, he makes our team so much better and allows his teammates to have so much more success. He’s such a great shooter, he draws a lot of attention when he’s looking for his own shot.”
Willis said the Cascades were determined not to come home empty-handed.
“We wanted the hardware – we wanted to come home with something,” he said. “We were focused, and we made it happen.
“Just growing up with this team has been big for me, and it’s been a privilege to play with these guys.”