It was an historic afternoon at the Healthy Living Centre on Sunday.
Not only did the Bobcats raise their four men’s basketball national championship banners to the rafters before their tip-off against the Northern British Columbia Timberwolves, but the Bobcats also won their first Canada West men’s basketball game at the new facility.
It wasn’t easy as the game was a defensive battle from start to finish, but Brandon (3-9) got a clutch three-pointer from Michael (Reggie) Smith with 90 seconds left and some late stops to earn a 61-54 win over UNBC (5-7).
"It feels great to finally get one in front of a home crowd," said Smith, who had 13 points. "The first game we had here we were expecting to get a win and we came up short. It definitely feels good to get one and close it out defensively. Defensive lapses have killed us most games, so to get stops at the end was really big."
Like their previous two home games — both of which were lost by two points — the game was in doubt late in the fourth quarter. Brandon’s offence struggled, managing only five points in the first 8:30 of the quarter, but closed out the game with Smith’s three-pointer and a pair of Jordan Reaves free throws.
It really was the Bobcats’ defensive play that bailed them out. Brandon rotated well, got in shooting lanes and when things did break down, Isaiah James was there to block a few shots.
BU head coach Gil Cheung also believes his team did a better job of not getting down when the UNBC came back to tie the game late in the fourth quarter.
"We talked today about how cheesy it is and you see those quotes all the time, but they call it the present because it’s a gift," Cheung said. "We can’t change yesterday and we can’t worry about tomorrow. We thought about today. I thought during the tough times when it was tight and neither team could score, we kind of relied on focusing on things we could control and we did a good job of that."
Reaves had 12 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists in the game. Ilarion Bonhomme added 13 points and 10 rebounds, while Ali-Mounir Benabdelhak posted 12 points.
Most of the Bobcats left their dressing room Sunday afternoon with a sense of relief after pulling out the tight game, and Smith hopes they can build on this positive result as they prepare to visit the UBC Thunderbirds (10-2) and Victoria Vikes (7-5) on Friday and Saturday.
"I think this is a momentum boost considering the monkey was on our back," Smith said. "We saw we can win at home and that will help us in future games and hopefully we can build on that and make the push for playoffs."