DAVID LARKINS, Wesmen Athletics
The Winnipeg Wesmen found another gear in the fourth quarter but ultimately ran out of gas Thursday night.
The Wesmen men's basketball team wiped out a 13-point deficit in the final period — including a 10-point disadvantage in the final three minutes — to force overtime, but dropped a 96-91 Canada West conference decision to the Manitoba Bisons at the Investors Group Athletic Centre.
Narcisse Ambanza had a team-high 26 points, nine assists and six rebounds for the Wesmen (2-5), who lost their fifth straight game. DJ Dixon added 22 points and a career-high five steals.
The Wesmen stormed back with a 28-17 fourth quarter to force overtime. Down 73-60 with 6:26 to go, the Wesmen went on an 8-2 run to get the lead down to seven with 3:47 remaining. The Bisons would eventually bump the lead back up to double digits at 80-70 on a James Wagner free throw with 2:43 remaining. Manitoba would score just two more points the rest of the quarter.
The Wesmen went on a 10-0 run and tied the game on a Dixon layup with 1:07 left. Risto Zimbakov was 25 seconds left and missed both free throws, but the Wesmen were called on a lane violation, giving Zimbakov another shot, which he made to put Manitoba up 81-80. Ambanza missed a three on the next trip, Wagner went 1-for-2 from the free-throw line after Winnipeg fouled and the Bisons held an 82-80 lead with six seconds left.
Ambanza drove to his left and drew two defenders before dishing off to Spas Nikolov, who was alone underneath the hoop to lay it in and force overtime as time expired.
"I think (the comeback) was more dictated by time and score. They were slowing down and we were speeding up and that was good for us," Wesmen head coach Mike Raimbault said. "I think if you look at the tough stretch that we've been on here at every point we've battled and given ourselves a chance to win despite some difficult circumstances. We just haven't been rewarded for it."
The result gave Manitoba a 2-1 advantage in the Duckworth Challenge meaning men's and women's volleyball at UWinnipeg on Friday will be the deciding factor. Winnipeg has taken home the last two Duckworth Challenge titles.
Keiran Zziwa had a game-high 30 to lead the Bisons, who also got 23 from Rashawn Browne.