Men’s Basketball (Canada West Conference Play)
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KELOWNA, B.C. - For the entire preseason the Heat men’s basketball team was unable to field its full roster due to injuries and other situations, so being able to open their third Canada West campaign at home with a fairly intact roster was a treat for the Kelowna team hosting the perennial powerhouse Alberta Golden Bears.
The No. 2 ranked Golden Bears would ultimately run away to the 72-60 victory in Kelowna on Friday night. Second-year guard Greet Gill (Osoyoos, BC) was the Heat Landmark Cinemas Player of the Game behind a gutsy performance that produced 11 points, 5 rebounds and 2 steals in 30 minutes of play as a starter.
Up only by seven at 19-12 after the first quarter, the Heat appeared to be doing their part to hang around Alberta. However, the Bears would build a formidable lead in the second quarter, outscoring the Heat 23-14. The Heat tried to storm back in the fourth, going so far as to outscore the Bears 23-18, but it would be far from enough.
Heat head coach Pete Guarasci was very pleased with how his team fought and battled a much larger Bears team that often pushed and shoved their way through the paint on both ends of the court. On the offensive end Gill, along with guards Yassine Ghomari (5th year, Vancouver, BC) and Mitch Goodwin (2nd year, Kelowna, BC) were not afraid to take the ball towards the cup, never shying from the body contact that the physically formidable Alberta team threw their way.
“You have to have an assertive and aggressive mentality on offense,” Guarasci said postgame. “If you play tentative, and try to think too much, it’s going to slow down the game and slow down your approach. So that was a key point for us in the pregame talk, and I think the guys did it. They executed, they played with passion at both ends of the floor.”
The Bears would still win the battle in the paint, outscoring the Heat 32-14 in that zone. Depth would also be a significant factor for the matchup as the Bears were able to get 31 big points from their bench to the Heat’s 10.
As was expected, fifth-year former All-Star Jordan Baker did it all for the Bears, finishing with a double-double 22 points and 11 rebounds (both game-highs) in just 26 minutes of floor time. Easy layups and looks on the inside were the story for the Bears, who were 46.6% from the floor.
Sophomore Mitch Goodwin (Kelowna, BC) led the Heat in scoring with 13 points on 5-16 shooting, and also grabbed 4 rebounds and picked away 3 steals in a similar virtuoso performance to Gill’s. Fifth-year guards Yassine Ghomari (Vancouver, BC) and Landry Ndayitwayeko (Windsor, ON) rounded out the top scorers for the Heat with 11 each.
“I think if we had done a little bit better job of taking care of the ball, it could have been a bit of a tighter game,” Guarasci said of the game. Indeed, the Heat would turn the ball over 17 times that would account for 14 Alberta points. “That was the key for us. But you know what, I’ve got to give it up for our guys. They battled right through to the end. They were great at both ends of the floor at times. I think we have to clean up some things to be a little bit sharper.”
The Heat begin their third Canada West campaign 0-1 while the top team in Canada West coming into the season in the Bears will begin 1-0. The Heat are back at home tomorrow night to host the Saskatchewan Huskies, another team from the prairie division that the Heat will only see once this year. Tip-off for the matchup is 8 p.m.