Tyler Crayston, Brandon Bobcats Communications
BRANDON - The Brandon University men's basketball team nearly pulled off an epic comeback on Sunday night in front of an electrifying crowd at the Healthy Living Centre.
The Bobcats fought to the bitter end, but dropped a heartbreaking 94-81 decision against the Thompson Rivers WolfPack in the third and deciding game of their Canada West play-in series.
In a do-or-die showdown, BU dug a huge hole as they trailed by 26 points, but battled back to trim the deficit to as little as three points.
The WolfPack pushed the pace early in the crucial contest as they opened the game with a 7-0 run. TRU started strong and finished the quarter in similar style. A 12-2 run to close out the quarter had the WolfPack holding a 26-13 advantage at the end of the first.
TRU gained more momentum right off the bat in the second quarter as they scored 13 straight points to lead 39-13.
The Bobcats then started to show signs of turning the tables. Josh Bell answered the bell with three consecutive baskets and BU trailed 42-26. Brandon's deficit was 48-28 at the break.
After halftime, the offence started to pour like tap water for the Bobcats. BU strung together 13 straight points to trim TRU's lead to six points. At the end of the third, Brandon was down by that same margin at 70-64.
In the fourth quarter, Tyvon Cooper nailed a massive three pointer with 3:58 remaining to get the Bobcats within three, but that is as close as they would get.
TRU's victory advances them to the conference quarter-finals where they draw the Calgary Dinos, while the Bobcats season comes to end.
The 2016-17 campaign saw a tremendous turnaround for the Bobcats. BU posted a 9-and-11 regular season record and qualified for the playoffs for the first time in eight years after going 1-and-19 the year before.
On Sunday, Thompson Rivers had balanced offence in their series-clinching win with five players reaching double digits. Luke Morris was the WolfPack's top scorer with 25 points, while Volodymyr Iegorov was next with 21 points. Derek Rhodes recorded 17 points, Joe Davis delivered 12 and Trent Monkman had 11.
The top scorer for the Bobcats was Cooper, who collected 28 points while Earl Thompson Jr. added 17 points in his final game in a BU uniform.