The Brandon University Bobcats looked completely dejected as they left BU’s Healthy Living Centre for their Christmas break on Saturday night.
Brandon looked poised to cap the first half of its Canada West men’s basketball season with a victory, but Michael (Reggie) Smith missed a three-pointer as time expired and Brandon fell 75-73 to the visiting Trinity Western Spartans. The loss was even harder for the Bobcats (2-8) to take because they held a 12-point advantage at halftime, but have now slipped into last place in the Prairie Division.
"It hurts a lot," said BU guard Ilarion Bonhomme, who had 11 points, six rebounds and seven assists. "Everyone in the locker room is down. Our fans come out, it’s not a lot of fans but the fans who do come out support us, and we wanted to send them to Christmas with a win. Not just for us, but the fans, too."
Ali-Mounir Benabdelhak led Brandon’s charge with 23 points and 10 rebounds. Jordan Reaves also had a double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds, while Isaiah James blocked four shots in 14 minutes of court time for BU. Justin Bakuteka had 25 points for the Spartans (3-7) and Mark Perrin added 18 points and 11 rebounds.
What hurts the Bobcats even more is the situation they now face for the second half of the season. The top four teams in each of the eight-team divisions make the Canada West playoffs, and Brandon has put itself in a difficult position to battle back from, with the Bobcats now four wins out of the final playoff spot. The good news is that eight of their final 12 games are in Brandon, although the Bobcats sport an 0-3 record on home court.
"The reality is you’re 2-8 and to get to the playoffs you probably need to get to 12-10," BU head coach Gil Cheung said. "That’s a tough task when you’re at two right now and you have to get 10 of your next 12. Playoffs were a huge goal and we’ve had injuries and stuff, but there’s no excuses. … I think we’re making some positive steps, but it’s just little stretches where we’re killing ourselves."
The Bobcats are now idle until playing in the Wesmen Classic in Winnipeg from Dec. 28-30. They resume their Canada West schedule Jan. 11 when they host the Mount Royal Cougars.
Cheung still has faith that the team can turn it around.
"I wouldn’t recruit them if I didn’t think we had character, tough guys that bought into what we’re trying to do," Cheung said. "I think that’s the tough part right now. In that locker room, guys are down not because of how they carry themselves, but because a few breaks didn’t go their way. They’re character kids and they’re learning and hopefully they’ll get better."