Kwantlen guard Aaron Ram gets hacked by Langara forward Jesse Jeffers during their Feb. 8 matchup in Surrey. – Brian Jones Photo
There was a slim chance of a positive outcome for the Kwantlen men’s basketball team this past weekend. In my last article, I detailed the miniscule odds that would send them to the postseason. Unfortunately for the Eagles, those odds were stacked too heavily against them.
On Friday, Feb. 15 against Camosun College, the Eagles played some of their best – and strangest – basketball all year. Their starting point guard, Chris Arcangel, was out for the third straight game with an ankle injury, and their back-up lead guard, Nii Engmann, was taking care of his newborn baby daughter. Kwantlen was left without any of their usual ball handlers, but Wilson managed to find an unlikely substitute that ended up causing a ton of matchup problems.
He called upon third-year forward Tristan Gruenthaler to run the offense. Gruenthaler had rarely ventured outside the paint during the entire season, and has a offensive repertoire that revolves around up-and-unders, turnaround hooks, and spot-up 10-foot jumpers. He’s 6-foot-6, has one of the biggest bodies on Kwantlen’s roster, but on Friday he was given a new role – to run the Eagles’ offense.
Besides completely surprising the Chargers, the shuffle created a ripple effect of matchup problems. If a post player came out to defend Gruenthaler, that gave Ali Bosir more room to operate in the post. If they brought out a guard, that forced other bigger, slower defenders to have to close out Kwantlen’s three-point shooters.
Eagles centre Ali Bosir is wrapped up by Falcons forward Garrett Ling-Lee on his way to what would have been a huge two-handed cram. – Brian Jones Photo
Overmatched at the worst possible time of the season, Kwantlen couldn’t keep up with the nationally-ranked Langara Falcons, losing 100-75 Friday night at home.
Guard Jeff Chu paced the Falcons with 22 points, while forward Jesse Jeffers dropped 18 points and grabbed 7 boards.
However the most impressive line of the night comes from point guard Brody Greig, who tallied the strangest near-quadruple double I’ve ever seen, going for 13 assists, nine steals, eight rebounds and seven points.
Kwantlen’s man in the middle, Ali Bosir, racked up 16 points and 16 rebounds, while forward Tristan Gruenthaler finally showed what he’s capable of offensively, scoring 19 points and ripping down 13 boards – unfortunately those numbers came at a price of seven turnovers from the 6-foot-6 Yale Secondary grad.
Usually on a night where Kwantlen sticks around early in the game, like they did in the first quarter of last night’s match – trailing only 21-20 at the first break – I would cite their late-game inconsistency as the roots of their perils.
But to say that they’re inconsistent would be a lie. They consistently melt down in the latter half of most games after seemingly-strong starts. They consistently shoot the ball poorly in the third and fourth quarters. And they consistently rack up losses when they have the ability to win.
Kwantlen Eagles head coach Stefon Wilson shouts instructions from the sideline. – Brian Jones Photo
I had my victory article ready. I had jotted down intended postgame questions like “What was the key to the win tonight?” and “How huge is to finally get two wins in a row during this stretch of the season?”
In my head, I already had the title: “Eagles complete weekend sweep, move one step closer to playoffs.”
Then the fourth quarter came, and along with it a complete breakdown.
On Saturday, Feb. 2, the Quest University Kermodes outscored the Kwantlen Eagles 38-14 in the final 10 minutes, overcoming a double-digit deficit and going on to win 102-87.
Notes were scribbled over, pages were torn out, and my victory article was scrapped.
Eagles captain Ali Bosir looks for an open man during Friday night’s game against Capilano. Bosir nearly notched a triple-double with nine assists to go along with his 25 points and 22 rebounds. – Brian Jones Photo
With about seven minutes left in the fourth quarter, and his team up 20 points on the Capilano University Blues, Kwantlen head coach Stefon Wilson paced down the sideline towards his players, a little faster than usual, and screamed loud enough for the entire gym to hear.
“WAKE UP! I need you guys to wake up!”
It was in response to those players on the bench not alerting their on-court teammate Aaron Ram that the 24-second shot clock was about to run out. As the clock reaches 10 seconds, the bench is more or less responsible for counting down the remaining seconds to let those on the floor know they have to get a shot off soon.
Normally, this error would not have been a big deal – as least not when a team’s up 20 points in the fourth quarter. But Wilson had seen this happen too often. His team would get a lead – or at least stay close to – an opponent in the first half, then completely wither in the third and fourth quarters.
Kwantlen Eagles centre Ali Bosir. (Brian Jones Photo)
Usually after a basketball game, the losing team can pinpoint the reasons for what went wrong. Maybe it was a buzzer beater, too many turnovers, poor shooting, lack of defensive intensity, or the other team simply caught fire.
When more than one of those factors occurs in the same night, it’s often perceived as bad luck. It wasn’t their night. The basketball gods weren’t in their favour. The other team got hot and they didn’t.
They’re all completely plausible reasons for an in-game breakdown.
But when it happens over and over and over again, and the losses begin to snowball, and the standings look like a rock wall with no place to grip – it becomes more than just bad luck.
UNBC forward Dennis Stark maneuvers around Kwantlen’s Ali Bosir, attempting a tough finger roll. Stark had 14 on the night. – Brian Jones Photo
One team, a perennial provincial power, entered the year’s final regular season game with a daunting 12-3 record. They had won a double-overtime game the night before, cementing their second-place spot in the standings and securing an automatic bye for the first round of the approaching playoffs.
The other, a team who won just one league game the previous year, entered the match having won four of their last five. They had two options: win the game in upsetting fashion and clinch the league’s sixth and final playoff spot, or lose, and end their season prematurely.
In a convincing 92-72 victory, the University of Northern British Columbia Timberwolves reaffirmed their confidence heading into the postseason, while the Kwantlen Polytechnic University Eagles were forced to exercise the undesirable second option.