By Sonny Sachdeva, March 22 2016 —
After putting together one of the finest seasons in the history of the program, the Dinos men’s basketball team rolled all the way to the CIS championship game, losing in the final to Carleton University.
The University of Calgary entered the Final Eight in Vancouver after reeling off four straight playoff wins. The Dinos swept the University of Alberta in the Canada West playoffs before taking down the University of Manitoba and Thompson Rivers University for the Canada West title.
Entering the Final Eight as the fourth seed, the Dinos opened the national tournament with a 72–69 victory over Quebec champion McGill University. Dinos guard Thomas Cooper — the 2016 Canada West MVP — led the team in scoring, posting 21 points.
The U of C moved on to a game with the Ryerson University Rams, the number one seed. The Dinos prevailed once again, this time with a more dominant margin of victory, earning a 98–87 win over Ryerson to book a ticket to the national championship game.
The Dinos offence exploded against Ryerson. While Cooper once again led the team with 30 points, he certainly had help. David Kapinga and Jasdeep Gill chipped in with 26 points and 23 points respectively, powering the Dinos to a semifinal victory.
The U of C seemed on the cusp of closing out their phenomenal season with a historic championship, but the storybook ending was not to be.
Coming up against a dominant Carleton University squad — who won the past five national titles — the Dinos finally found themselves outmatched.
Cooper put forth a signature offensive effort, leading his team with 25 points and getting the Dinos as close as he could to victory. But in front of 4,415 fans at Vancouver’s Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre, Carleton stamped out the U of C’s title hopes with a 101–79 win.
“I’m disappointed, but I’ve got to give credit to Carleton,” Dinos head coach Dan Vanhooren said. “They shot the ball well and I don’t think we provided a lot of resistance at times in transition. It’s a good learning lesson for our kids. The game was going up and down, and I think that’s a style that we’ve played all year, so the tempo was reasonable. We just honestly couldn’t keep them in front of us.”
The Dinos were eventually done in by Carleton’s hot start and strong finish. The game’s two middle frames were very close, with only a four-point difference in the second and a one-point difference in the third. But the Dinos struggled to regain their footing after Carleton posted a strong 26–14 lead after the first quarter.
After the U of C began closing the gap, Carleton shut the Dinos down with a dominant fourth, putting up 30 points to U of C’s 23 and finishing the game with a 22-point lead.
While the U of C wasn’t able to close out the national championship victory, their 2015–16 effort remains an undeniable success for the Dinos program. The team’s Canada West title was the first achieved by the men’s team in seven years, and only the sixth ever won by the club.