That the Clan took the number one team in the conference down to the very last shot is impressive. That they did it playing without the GNAC’s leading scorer and their top point guard (to name just two) is even more so.
The 74–73 loss at the hands of the Western Oregon University Wolves will sting, but the Clan’s effort must not be underappreciated. For various reasons, the Clan were able to dress only eight players for Thursday’s game, and those on the bench included two of the Clan’s top-three scorers, Javari Williams and Matt Ravio. Nevertheless, the Clan played hard and nearly stole a victory and head coach James Blake gave his team full credit.
“I thought it was an unbelievable effort by my guys,” said Blake. “It was going to take the guys, one through eight, to compete.”
“I’m really proud of the guys, even though it was a loss.”
As the score would indicate, the game itself was tight throughout. The Clan opened the scoring on the game’s first possession, but the teams traded baskets early. It seemed as though every time one team sunk a basket, of any value, the other matched right away. And though the early shootout was entertaining for fans, Blake was certainly no fan of it.
To say a frustrated Blake ‘called out’ a few of his players would be putting it lightly, but whatever the animated coach said to players seemed to work. Immediately following the timeout, sophomore guard Chris Evans drained a three-point basket, and the Clan defense forced a number of Wolves turnovers. Jordan Sergent, who took the brunt of Blake’s frustration, came out firing afterwards.
“He’s just a really nice kid,” said Blake of Sergent, “but sometimes you just have to light a fire under him to get him going, and I think we did that.” He rebounded with seven points along with a couple rebounds and blocks to end the half, after being held off the score sheet prior.
The improved play from Sergent and the rest of the Clan built up a four-point lead for the home team as halftime neared. However, a 6–1 run from the Wolves late put Western Oregon up by one heading into the second frame. Despite trailing, the Clan had been getting contributions from all eight players, exactly what they needed to stay in it.
Unfortunately, the Clan struggled slightly to start the second half. After hitting over 40 per cent of their three-point attempts in the first half, the team struggled to hit few, if any, early. But just when it seemed the Clan would have to find a new tactic, sophomore guard John Bantock hit three straight baskets from beyond the arc, pulling the Clan ahead once again.
The Clan, like the Wolves, were unable to pull away once they established a lead. It wasn’t until nearly 10 minutes had passed in the second half before either team built a lead greater than three points.
Zack Frehlick hit a three to put the Clan up by five midway through the frame, but a 9–3 run from the Wolves only continued the see-saw action that had been taking place all game long. The teams went eye-to-eye through to the final minute. Justin Brown hit two free throws to put the Clan up 73–72 with less than a minute to play. But then came the game’s defining moment, as WOU’s Justin Freelander hit a two-point jumper to put his team up with just nine seconds left on the clock. SFU’s Connor Lewis had a chance to win it on a last-second three-point shot, but the ball hit the rim and the horn sounded, as the game drew to a heartbreaking close.
Though the loss hurts now, and though the team still remains winless in the GNAC, the Clan aren’t going to dwell on the result.
“That was the best game we played this year,” said Bantock. “We’ve got to put [the loss] in the bag and move on.”
His coach reiterated that sentiment. “I like to use the chewing gum theory. You chew on a cheap piece of gum for 15 minutes, and then the flavours gone, then you have to spit that thing out and throw it away, and you’ve got to move on.”
As the team improves though, you can expect the games to look less like Dubble Bubble and more like Trident Layers.
“Again, it was an unbelievable effort,” said Blake. “They chewed the hell out of that piece of gum.”
Game in a Flash
Missing two of their stars, the Clan were in tough against the GNAC-leading Western Oregon Wolves.
Instead of rolling over, however, the Clan traded punches with the Wolves from start to finish. Both teams struggled to build a lead of any significance, and as a result the game stayed tied from start to finish.
The real drama came in the final minute. SFU lead by one with 45 seconds left, but the Wolves responded with a two-pointer to pull ahead with just nine seconds on the clock. Connor Lewis missed a game-winning shot, and the Clan ultimately lost by one point.
Man of the Match
With Javari Williams out, Brown takes over as the Clan’s most dynamic offensive player. He delivered, finishing one assist short of a double-double, and was the team’s primary offensive catalyst. He put the team up by one late with two clutch free throws, but unfortunately the lead didn’t hold.