The Brandon University Bobcats found a perfect way to finish their final men’s basketball game at the BU gymnasium Saturday night.
The 426 fans in the 47-year-old building were as boisterous as ever in a playoff-like atmosphere through the first 38.5 minutes of action and exploded after Donovan Gayle slam dunked the ball to open up an 80-73 lead on the Lethbridge Pronghorns. The Pronghorns managed to get only one shot to fall in the final 90 seconds as the Bobcats kept their Canada West conference playoff hopes alive with an 87-75 win.
For Bobcats head coach Gil Cheung, Saturday’s game brought back a flood of memories of the old facility from when he was a player.
"That’s what I remember," he said. "They called timeout with 1:30 on the clock and the place is electric. I don’t know how many places where you get that feeling. Let’s be honest, it looks like there’s 4,000 people, but there (was 426). It’s electric, it’s loud, you can’t hear yourself and it was a throwback (game)."
Ilarion Bonhomme led the BU with 25 points in 39 minutes. Jordan Reaves scored 14 and Ali-Mounir Benabdelhak had 12 points and 10 rebounds.
The win meant a lot for Gayle, one of two fifth-year Bobcats playing their final home games in the BU gym.
He also wanted to send it out with a dunk, and he accomplished that feat twice.
"The whole time I was hoping to get a breakaway," said Gayle, who had 11 points and seven rebounds. "I wanted to close it off and it happened. … To close this gym with a win means a lot to me. To be a part of that with a dunk and a win means a lot."
While the Bobcats players and coaches, who applauded the fans after the game, felt good to win a game that was special for historical reasons, they were even happier for what it does to the playoff picture.
Brandon (7-11) is now one game behind the Manitoba Bisons and Calgary Dinos (both 8-10) for fourth place and the final playoff spot in the Prairie Division and two games back of Lethbridge (9-9) for third place.
The Bobcats know they need to win their final two games when they visit the Alberta Golden Bears (12-6) next weekend and get some help to clinch a playoff berth, but they feel confident.
"We’re rolling now," said fifth-year Bobcats forward Kyle Vince, who scored 16 points. "We’ve won two games (in a row) and we’ve never done that all year, so I think we all have a good feeling and are looking forward to Friday night."