WolfPack eliminated from CIS nationals

TRU’s season comes to an end with loss by just one point to third seed Ottawa Gee-Gees

WolfPack guard Jeff Tubbs rushes past defense put up by the Ottawa Gee-Gees during Friday's game. (Cameron Doherty/The Omega)

WolfPack guard Jeff Tubbs rushes past defense put up by the Ottawa Gee-Gees during Friday’s game. (Cameron Doherty/The Omega)

A historic year has come to an end for WolfPack men’s basketball. A division title, second place in the conference and a trip to nationals were all firsts for the ‘Pack. Unfortunately they won’t be adding a CIS nationals win to that impressive list after a 78–77 loss to the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees ended their season.

“I wouldn’t change anything for the world. I mean we’re a little bit disappointed to go out in two here at nationals, but it’s a really big step for our program just to make it here. We played two fantastic teams, in Ottawa and Carleton. Moving forward, for the young guys in that locker room it’s an experience that not only are they going to cherish but it’s going to make them a lot better in the future,” said fifth-year forward Josh Wolfram.

TRU was playing the Gee-Gees for the chance to extend their season one more game and play for fifth place in the country tomorrow at noon. The Gee-Gees were seeded third in the tournament, and were playing the game after being upset by the University of Dalhousie last night.

The game started off as a defensive stalemate. Neither team looked particularly confident attacking with the ball and when that lack of confidence was combined with what are two of the top 10 defences in the CIS, it looked like points were going to be at a premium during the game. That all changed with four minutes left to go in the quarter when the Gee-Gees started to heat up from downtown. The ‘Pack looked like they were going to be in trouble before they answered with a run of their own to trail by just two points after the first quarter.

The back and forth affair continued throughout the second quarter with neither team able to take control of the contest. After a beautiful pass from Reese Pribilsky found Gerard Gore wide open underneath the basket, TRU took their first lead of the game, 35–33 with a minute left in the first half.

The lead slipped away from TRU, but it remained close, just three points separated the teams when the second half got underway.

The third quarter did nothing to separate the teams as Volodymyr Iegorov single-handedly took the game over for the ‘Pack. He scored 13 for his team leading 21 points in the frame. Iegorov was matched every step of the way by Caleb Agada of the Gee-Gees who scored 12 of his game-high 24 points in the third.

So it all came down to the fourth quarter, and as only fitting for two teams that were so even throughout the game it came down to the very last play. Ottawa led 78–72 with just over a minute and a half left to go when TRU mounted yet another charge. After a clutch 3-point shot by Luke Morris got the ‘Pack to within one point with 46 seconds left, some great defence by both Wolfram and Pribilsky allowed the ‘Pack to have a shot at the win. Holding the ball to make sure that it was the last shot of the game, Pribilsky worked off a double-screen set by Wolfram and Morris, got some separation from the defenders and let go a shot with just 5 seconds left in the game. The entire stadium held its breath as the ball floated through the air, hanging there for what seemed like an eternity before the clang of the ball hitting the rim and bouncing away from the net echoed throughout the building.

The shot falling just inches short sealed the game. The final score was Gee-Gees 78, TRU 77.

One thing that will especially sting about this loss for the ‘Pack is that it was their lack of execution in something they usually excel at that cost them. TRU ended the season with the fourth best free-throw shooting percentage in the country, converting on 75.8 per cent of their attempts from the charity stripe. On the night when it mattered the most, the ‘Pack made just 8 of their 14 free-throw attempts, leaving them with a success ratio that was less than their shooting percentage from beyond the three-point arc.

This game also marked the end of the road for three of TRU’s most decorated players in school history. Josh Wolfram, Reese Pribilsky and Gerard Gore have all completed their 5 years of CIS eligibility.

“When we recruited them we asked them if they wanted to come someplace to build something and be the first ones. That’s what they’ve done, I think they leave a pretty big legacy and they’re really good guys. They’re good students, they conduct themselves very well on the basketball floor and in public,” said TRU head coach Scott Clark.

“They’ve made a lot of people proud, not just myself and their teammates, but the institution and I think the city of Kamloops.”

Wolfram, Pribilsky and Gore all came to the program when it was in a time of flux and have been making WolfPack history ever since. They were a part of TRU teams that first made the playoffs, won a playoff series, won a division title, made it to the Canada West final four and played on the biggest stage of university basketball in Canada, the CIS final eight.