Posted on: March 19, 2016
The most successful season in the history of the Thompson Rivers University WolfPack men’s basketball program is over.
The WolfPack—who won their first divisional title, and medal in Canada West play were eliminated at the CIS Final 8 in Vancouver on Friday night (Mar 18).
Playing the third ranked team in the nation: the University of Ottawa Gee Gees, the ‘Pack fell 78-77. As a result, Thompson Rivers will finish tied for seventh and eighth in the country. Not too shabby for a program which was in a state of flux when Scott Clark took over at the helm six years ago.
In this contest, the WolfPack were a little nervous opening up and found themselves down 10 with 3:46 left in the opening quarter. The WolfPack cut the deficit when Clark reinstated Josh Wolfram (5th year, forward, Kamloops, BC), Reese Pribilsky (5th year, guard, Victoria, BC) and Volodymyr Iegorov (4th year, forward, Donetsk, Ukraine). Those three players would have big roles as the game wore on.
With them back on the floor, the Pack found themselves down by only two (22-20) by the end of the quarter.
In the second quarter, Ottawa jumped out to a seven point lead before the WolfPack battled back again to tie it and take the lead when Luke Morris (3rd year, forward, Mission, BC) drained a three point shot with just over two minutes remaining to go ahead 35-33. But, some missed foul shots and opportunities under the basket cost them. TRU trailed by three (40-37) at the half. Morris finished with 15 points on the night.
But as has been the M.O. for Thompson Rivers all year: they refused to go away and when Wolfram hit bucket at the buzzer, TRU led the Gee Gee’s by one 60-59 after three quarters. Wolfram wound up with a double double-14 points and 14 rebounds.
In the fourth, Pribilsky hit a pair of three point shots to pull the ‘Pack ahead 66-64 for their biggest lead of the game. The teams traded buckets for the rest of the quarter. With Ottawa up 78-74 with 1:32 left, Pribilsky hit deuce and it was followed up by a three point basket by Morris. That pulled the WolfPack to a one point deficit. It came down to a last play and with 0.6 seconds left, Pribilsky got the ball and drove to the hoop. His shot came up short. He still had 10 points on the night.
“We got the stop we wanted but it just wouldn’t go in,” Wolfram explained about the play. “I am really proud of the guys. How we fought back after a real tough start to the game. We were down after what happened against Carleton but we came back and made a game of this one.”
The Gee Gee’s move onto Saturday’s consolation final and TRU’s season is over.
“A roll here, a lay up there and it would have been a different story, ”said Clark afterwards. “
“Ottawa is a great program and they obviously got a couple of more stops down the stretch,’ Wolfram explained. “Our guys did play a great game. I couldn’t be more proud. Everyone in that dressing room played their heart out. We had a look at how good those programs are at and that is where we want to go. Next time we get to the Final 8 and be even more competitive and win a couple of games.”
“Obviously we have come a long ways,” said Clark when asked about how far the program has come. “ It is not just this group or these coaches. It goes back to all the players who have worn the uniform and the coaches who have been a part of this team the last six years. It has been a building process. They should be very proud of as should all the alumni , everyone in our department and the institution as a whole. They are a major part of our success.”
TRU was led offensively by Iegorov. He was named the player of the game with 21 points. “ We learned a lot here. We need to be more physically and mentally tough. We will work on that during the spring and summer and have that edge next year.”
Ottawa had three players in double figures led by Caleb Agada (4th year, guard, Burlington, ON) with 24 points. Mackenzie Morrison (2nd year, forward, Barrie, ON) added 16 points with Calvin Epistola (1st year, guard, Toronto, ON) chipping in with 11.
The loss marked the end of the university careers of Wolfram, Pribilsky and Gerard Gore (forward, St.John’s, Antiqua). Gore had seven points and three rebounds in 18 minutes of work after getting into foul trouble.
“They were character guys, stand up guys,” Clark said. “ They were good leaders. In the classroom, on the court and in the community. They had an impact on me, the other players and our institution. I’m proud of that.”
Moving forward, Clark stated there is no doubt that the silver medal and the appearance at Nationals will help recruit top quality athletes to TRU. “ When you are talking to guys you are saying that we can compete—we know we can compete with the top programs in Canada. This will help with the next group who continues to grow this on the court and in the classroom. I think what we offer is pretty good.”
Iegorov will come back in 2016-17 as a fifth year player. He says he is ready to lead: “ I am excited. It will be a big responsibility. I’ll try to be a mentor and groom their skills academically and on the court.”
DOUBLE DRIBBLES: Wolfram on how special this group was: “ They have put in their best every single day. We go at it every day and every guy comes out of the dressing room with their head held high. It is a really great team. I will remember everything from going to the Final 8 to the little things that the guys who don’t play much to Reese, Vlad and myself who play 37 minutes a game. There is something special about each and every guy. I am really excited to see where this program goes. There is a lot of talented guys in that room and I am excited about where they will go next season.”