First-half fire fuels Bears to Final Four

First-half fire fuels Bears to Final Four

Paul Cartledge - Golden Bears and Pandas Athletics

EDMONTON – With almost 70 points in the first half alone, the University of Alberta Golden Bears decisively clinched their spot in the Canada West Final Four by defeating the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns 107-84 to take game three in a best-of-three quarter-final series, Saturday night at Saville Community Sports Centre.

Fourth-year guard Geoff Pippus led all players with 26 points and six three-pointers while third-year guard Austin Waddoups added 21 points and five treys of his own. Four more Bears recorded 10 or more points in the victory, but only fourth-year forward Mamadou Gueye earned a double-double, netting as many rebounds as he did points with 12.

Third-year forward Elliott Sentance had 21 points and eight boards for the Pronghorns, and fourth-year forward Dejon Burdeaux added 15 points, with most of them coming from the charity stripe as he drained all nine attempts. Along with Sentance, third-year forward Mike Pierzchala hit four treys and notched a double-digit point total with a dozen on the night.

Three straight long balls by Pierzchala for the visitors had Lethbridge with a small early lead two minutes into the opening quarter, but an explosive 15-2 run by Alberta more than erased the deficit, with the Golden Bears rolling on for the rest of the frame.

With six treys on 10 shots beyond the arc and shooting at 64% in the field, Alberta showed no signs of stopping, already picking up a 12-point lead to end the quarter.

The Bears followed with eight consecutive points to open the second, adding eight more three-balls in the stanza. Foul trouble by the Pronghorns added to the Alberta lead.

Lethbridge also came into the game with a chance to advance to the Final Four. The offence did whatever it could to stay in the game, with 46 points after two quarters being far from a struggling offence, but they simply could not match Alberta's shooting. The Bears also earned 12 points in the second quarter and 19 in the first half off of second chances.

Yet the Pronghorns knew they still had a chance in this game, coming back from a 14-point deficit on Friday to force a third game, but they would need to work even harder to overcome 23.

Unfortunately, Lethbridge's shooting went ice cold to start the third quarter, missing eight straight shots before senior guard William Hickey hit his first trey halfway through the quarter. The Golden, B.C. native put up four in last night's comeback win.

Success at the charity stripe kept the score from getting out of hand. Lethbridge netted all 11 free throw attempts for half of their points, but Alberta kept pace and only had their lead drop to as low as 17.

The fourth quarter had more of the same. The Pronghorns could not find the magic on the scoreboard from Friday while Alberta out-rebounded Lethbridge as the Golden Bears bench players contributed 14 points in the final 10 minutes.

Pippus put the final nail in the coffin when he sank a trey with 2:13 left to put the Bears past the century mark. Sophomore guard Ivan Ikomey added the last five points for Alberta. The Calgary native did not miss any of his six shots in 17 minutes of play, including four from beyond the arc.

Alberta now advances to the Canada West Final Four, hosted by the Calgary Dinos next weekend.