A capacity crowd filled the Estevan Comprehensive School gym last Thursday night to take in some Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) basketball. The packed house saw the University of Toronto Varsity Blues down the University of Regina Cougars 100-79.
The two CIS basketball clubs played the non-conference game in Estevan to raise money and enhance basketball in the Energy City. U of R head coach James Hillis said he was quite happy with the turnout from the community.
"I was pleased. I think it was good; it was what we wanted … outside of the loss. We wanted to get out into the community and show the product so that maybe some people from Estevan would come up and watch the odd game," Hillis said.
Things started out well for the Cougars, as they fed off the largely pro-Regina crowd and came out strong, holding a 29-22 lead after the first quarter. It was in the second that the Blues started to take over. They went on an 11-0 run in that quarter, and held a 43-38 lead at halftime.
Toronto capitalized on the Cougars' poor shooting and didn't look back after taking the lead. They went up 77-63 after three quarters, and at one point held a 24-point advantage en route to the 100-79 victory.
After the game, Hillis attributed the loss to his club's lack of success from the three-point line and their poor transition game.
"We were three of 20 or 22 going into the fourth quarter, and it didn't really get a lot better," he said. "I don't think we hit one, and that's bad shooting for a university basketball team. On 30 shots, you should be in the 12 to 16 makes range, and we were nowhere near.
"We would have liked a better result but it's sports and there's only one winner. I thought we had them tonight when we came out like gang busters, but we just kind of lost focus there, and really didn't shoot the ball well."
According to Hillis, the Cougars gave up far too many points as well. They usually score 75-85 and allowing the opposition to score 100 doesn't give them much of a chance to win. Hillis wasn't too worried about his team's performance, however, and he said they still have time to get better.
"It's early, and we got a lot of guys into the game which was one positive," said Hillis. "I wanted to see how some of these guys perform, and some of them performed well, and some not so much."
The Cougars are in a pretty tight conference this year. There are 16 teams in the Canada-West division, with the top eight making the playoffs, and according to Hillis they'll have to be about 14-10 over their 24 game schedule to make the playoffs.
Despite the loss, the Cougars' coach was in a rather positive mood thanks to the success of the event. He said growing basketball in southern Saskatchewan is part of both the university and the varsity basketball programs' mandate.
"It's what we want to do, and I'm very happy to see that we have minor basketball started here; I mean that's really how you get excellence in the basketball community, when kids start playing at a younger age," he said.
Hillis and three of his players also held a clinic for 30 young basketball players and a few coaches in the ECS gym before the game against Toronto.
The Cougars and Varsity Blues met again the following night at the Centre for Kinesiology, Health & Sport in Regina. The Cougars managed to come out on top in that contest, 90-83.