The Santa Clara Broncos seem to specialize in buzzer-beaters, and they stung the UFV Cascades in overtime on Friday evening.
The visiting NCAA Div. 1 squad – Steve Nash’s alma mater – got a three-pointer from Raymond Cowels III that dropped through as time expired in overtime to give the Broncos a highly entertaining 87-84 win over the UFV men’s basketball team.
It marked the third consecutive game on Santa Clara’s preseason tour of B.C. that they had gone to overtime. Last Tuesday, Kevin Foster hit a trey from 15 feet back of the three-point line against Trinity Western University to force an extra session, but the Spartans ultimately prevailed 108-100. Thursday’s game at UBC followed a similar script – Santa Clara’s Julien Clarke hit a triple to send it to OT, but the Thunderbirds went on to win 96-83.
“Three different players hitting buzzer-beating threes in three straight games,” marveled Santa Clara head coach Kerry Keating. “It’s exciting for our guys.
“It’s good to see guys stepping up, making plays.”
Santa Clara would go on to win a rematch with UBC 68-63 on Saturday to wrap up their Canadian tour with a 2-2 record.
The Cascades led for the majority of Friday’s game at the Envision Athletic Centre – they raced out to an early 10-2 advantage, highlighted by three-pointers on back-to-back possessions by Joel Friesen.
UFV took a 37-31 lead into halftime, and stretched it to double digits at 58-48 late in the third quarter. But Santa Clara found a rhythm after that, rallying to go up 68-62 with four minutes left in the fourth.
The Cascades responded with a 7-0 run of their own, capped by a fast-break dunk from Friesen that thrilled the home crowd.
With the score tied 74-74 and the clock ticking down, Santa Clara had the final shot, but Kevin Foster’s running floater in the lane bounced off the back rim.
In OT, the Cascades built an 84-80 edge, but Broncos point guard Evan Roquemore took over the game at that point. First, he drained a short jump shot over his UFV counterpart Sheldon Bjorgaard to cut the deficit to two. On the next Santa Clara possession, he drew a foul and swished a pair of free throws to knot the score.
Then with time running out, Roquemore drove into the lane, drew the defence and found Cowels III wide open in the right corner for the game-winner.
“It always sucks to lose close games, whether it’s preseason or whenever,” said Friesen, who finished with a game-high 24 points. “The effort was there, at times, and it’s just our third game together as a team.”
Sam Freeman (18 points), Mike James (12) and Jasper Moedt (11) also scored in double figures for the Cascades, while John McArthur and Brandon Clark paced the Broncos with 16 points apiece.
The game had a physical edge to it – in the third quarter, Friesen picked up an intentional foul after whistling an elbow at Cowels III’s head. Santa Clara’s Foster picked up an intentional foul of his own shortly thereafter for shoving Friesen to the ground during a battle for a rebound.
Keating noted his squad likes to play a rugged style, as evidenced by the fact they finished 13th in the NCAA in free throw attempts per game in 2010-11.
From the UFV side of things, Friesen was pleased his team didn’t back down from the Broncos’ physical challenge.
“We’ve got a team full of competitors this year, that’s the great thing about us,” he said.
• Former Vancouver College star Marc Trasolini was primed for a stellar senior season with the Broncos, but the 6’9″ forward suffered a season-ending ACL tear in his left knee during last Tuesday’s game at Trinity.
Friesen, who endured an ACL tear of his own back in 2008, had a chance to chat with Trasolini prior to tip-off of Friday’s game.
“It’s always tough to go through a rehabilitation like that,” said Friesen, a Yale Secondary grad who played against Trasolini during his high school days. “It’s important to keep a positive attitude.”
• The next preseason games on the schedule for the UFV basketball men are an intrasquad game on Sept. 29 and an alumni game on Oct. 1.