DAVID LARKINS, Wesmen Athletics
WINNIPEG — Narcisse Ambanza put the Winnipeg Wesmen on his back and put the Manitoba Bisons out the door.
The third-year point guard scored a playoff career-high 36 points and added six assists to lead the Wesmen men's basketball team to a 92-77 victory over the Manitoba Bisons in a Canada West conference first-round game Thursday at the Duckworth Centre.
It was the second time in three games this season the Wesmen have beaten the Bisons and the second time they led wire-to-wire.
Winnipeg opened with an 18-3 run and led 33-14 after a quarter. They stretched that lead to as many as 25 with a 6-0 to start the second quarter. A 6-0 to close the second for the Bisons brought them to 49-35 down, but Manitoba was never able to get the lead below double digits.
The Bisons trimmed it to 12 on a couple of occasions in the third quarter and an Andre Arruda 3 1:14 into the fourth quarter cut their deficit to 68-58.
Ambanza put the icing on the cake with a step-back 3 that pushed the lead to 90-70 with 1:56 to go. Ambanza's total was the highest of the season, the highest he's put up in a playoff game and matched his overall career high, which he had in a 105-103 win against Brandon in January 2018.
It was also the third-highest point total by a player in Canada West this season.
"I was struggling the last few games against U of M and I just took it upon myself to prepare myself better for this game and just come out, have a lot of energy and help my team," Ambanza said.
"Last Saturday we went out big against them and they came back and they trimmed the lead and eventually won at the end of the game. We made it a priority to keep the lead and keep fighting throughout the entire game."
"We came out and were getting defensive stops, which is a big key for us especially against a talented team like Manitoba," Wesmen head coach Mike Raimbault said. "I was happy that defensively we were really engaged from the get-go and I think when we do that our offence flows much more freely for us."
Rashawn Browne had 23 to lead the Bisons, who got 16 and 10 from James Wagner, 15 from Arruda and 10 off the bench from Malik Irwin, playing in his final game.