Spartans run out of gas
Men’s basketball playoff run collapses in Winnipeg
It looked like they had turned the corner, it looked like they might be a threat and actually go on a run, and that’s precisely when it all started to go wrong. The Trinity Western University Spartans season wrapped up a little less than two weeks ago when they were formally eliminated from the Canada West playoffs by the Winnipeg Wesmen.
The Spartans’ road to those playoffs was a rocky and winding one; The Spartans were near the basement of the Pacific division at 3-7 heading into the Christmas break. However, a 9-3 mark following the break resurrected the Spartans’ season and yielded a playoff berth. With the full context of the season and the outside expectations of the team in mind, it was hard to predict what the team would do in the playoffs.
On the one hand, this is still a roster with a lot of turnover from the previous year and was looking at a transition year without much hope for too many victories. On the other hand, the team got much better as season went on as key players like Tristan Smith, Mark Perrin, Denny McDonald, and Tonner Jackson found their roles and began to produce at a very high level. Then again, the second half of the schedule that produced so many wins was a much easier slate than the early round of games that put the Spartans at the back of the pack.
After one game, it looked like the doubters were wrong and the Spartans really had turned the corner. The Spartans played a marvelous first game against Winnipeg as five starters scored in double figures led by Tonner Jackson who dropped 24 points, half of which came from the charity stripe. The six man rotation of Jackson, Smith, Perrin, McDonald, Tyler Lintell, and Justin Bakuteka created problems for Winnipeg and forced a bad shooting night from the Wesman as the home team went just 5-26 from deep for the game.
Sadly though, the six man rotation of Jackson, Smith, Perrin, McDonald, Tyler Lintell, and Justin Bakuteka that had led the Spartans all year finally ran out of gas following the big game one victory. The Spartans lakc of depth finally caught up to them as they appeared visibly tired the next two nights. The lack of energy was especially evident on defense as the Wesmen’s highly efficient offense came to life, shooting 52.6% from the field to even the series. Winnipeg then stepped into game three and blew the doors off the Spartans with two 30 point quarters en route to a 101-76 victory.
It would have been great to see the Spartans pull out of the final two games and make the Final Four but it just wasn’t to be as the curtain fell on the Spartans season. The good news going forward though is that only Point Guard Tristan Smith is graduating meaning the Spartans will finally enjoy some continuity next year.
The Spartans must shoot better; they hit just 64% on free throws this year, second last in the conference. They must also get better defensively (12th out of 16 teams in field goal percentage defense) and most importantly they must rebound better. God bless Lintell and Kurtis Osbourne but they must get stronger inside. The Spartans only had one player place in the top 20 in rebounding for the Canada West conference, Guard Mark Perrin. It’s great to get a well-rounded performance from Perrin but a guard simply can’t lead a good team in rebounding. The Spartans must get bigger and tougher inside as they were pushed around far too often this year. If they can replace Smith and fix those problems, we could be looking at a much deeper playoff run next year.