Down by 14 points in the second half of Thursday's semifinal game, it looked like the University of Winnipeg Wesmen men's basketball team was about to be the victims of a beat-down in the semifinal of their own tournament.
To their credit and thanks to a 27-point performance by Wesmen forward and player of the game Eric Zimmerman, who came off the bench to spark the team, the Wesmen battled back to force overtime but were defeated 93-85 by the Valley City State University Vikings in the semifinal of the 45th annual Wesmen Classic university men's basketball tournament at the U of W Duckworth Centre.
"It certainly is disappointing not to be in the final but we'll have to be a little faster out out of the gate tomorrow," said Zimmerman, whose Wesmen tied the game 81-81 with 23 seconds left in regulation time on a three-point bucket by Dominique Brown to force the five-minute overtime period.
"Coming back like that, we're trying to set the tone for the second half of the season. We knew we'd dug ourselves a hole and we had to give ourselves a chance to make a run. We definitely have to do better on the boards to win games like this."
In tonight's championship final at 8 p.m., Valley City will take on the Brandon Bobcats, who downed the UBC Okanagan Heat from Kelowna, 69-40.
The Wesmen will play for third place at 4 p.m. against UBC Okanagan.
The Manitoba Bisons earned a berth in the consolation final, which will be played today at 2 p.m. against the University of Northern British Columbia Timberwolves, a school that next season will join the Canada West conference and Canadian Interuniversity Sport.
The Bisons defeated Keyano College of Fort McMurray, Alta. 91-79 in their consolation semifinal on Thursday.
The Wesmen, down 15-0 nearly four minutes into the game before they were able to get on the scoreboard, were outrebounded by Valley City 51-35.
One of game's most exciting moments for the home fans was a buzzer-beater bucket by Winnipeg's Travis Krahn from beyond the three-point arc to end the third quarter and bring the Wesmen within four points.
Valley City was led by sharp-shooting guard Sekani Milligan, who netted 26 points in the game but fouled out with 39 seconds left in regulation time, and Sylvester Walker with 19 points while Aaron Duske put up a double-double with 17 points and 11 rebounds.