The Lakehead Thunderwolves and North Dakota's Dickinson State Bluehawks earned berths in the semifinal round with opening round wins in the 46th annual Wesmen Classic university men's basketball tournament on Friday at the University of Winnipeg Duckworth Centre.
The Brandon Bobcats landed three points shy of earning a berth in the semifinal, suffering a 75-72 loss to Dickinson State in their first game.
Lakehead, which includes Winnipeg natives Joseph Nitychoruk and Michael Thorne-Finch, defeated the University of Northern B.C. (Prince George) 90-50 in the tournament's opening game.
Lakehead and Dickinson State will meet in Saturday's 8:30 p.m. semifinal.
For Lakehead, Nitychoruk came off the bench to lead all players with 10 rebounds while fifth-year forward Yoosrie Salhia led all players with 22 points.
In the Brandon-Dickinson State game, the Bobcats trailed through most of the first two quarters but battled back to tie the score 30-30 at halftime. The Brandon squad led throughout the third and fourth quarters, even opening up a 10-point lead late in the third frame.
But Dickinson State won the game with a 10-0 run in the last two minutes by dominating the boards on a pair of Brandon turnovers. Leading the Bobcats was Winnipeg native Jordan Reaves with a game-high 22 points and 12 rebounds. Morden's James Elias, Brandon's 6-foot-11 starting post, scored four points and had five rebounds.
"Even though we lost today, our first game coming back together after a two-week break, I liked the way we're meshing again and we've got a couple new elements that we've brought in," said Reaves, who is the son of former Blue Bombers running back Willard Reaves and younger brother of NHL player Ryan Reaves, currently playing with the Orlando Solar Bears of the ECHL.
In tonight's games, the host Winnipeg Wesmen will meet the Keyano College Huskies from Fort McMurray, Alta. at 6:30 p.m. Calgary's Mount Royal Cougars, including Winnipeg's Nick Loewen, will take on the Mayville State Comets from North Dakota at 8:30 p.m.
Winners of those two games will meet in Saturday's 6:30 p.m. semifinal. The university men's championship game is on Sunday at 8 p.m.