The city cooled down but the courts heated up, as the University of Winnipeg Wesmen rode a blowout win on Saturday to advance to the Wesmen Classic semifinal.
The U of W squad climbed the ladder with a 85-30 rout of the visiting Lakeland College Rustlers at Duckworth Centre. It wasn't exactly a pretty game, but it marked the Wesmen's first step towards winning the eight-team tournament that bears their name.
Coming off a holiday break, fourth-year guard Jordan Clennon said he was pleased to see his team stay focused in their first test against the Alberta team.
'We feel like we're competitive. We want to be known as one of the better teams, and winning this would make us known... It's always good to win at home because the community comes out. We have to win for the fans'
"They played hard," he said of Lakeland. "It was a good game for us to come back to... I'm happy to see everyone playing their game."
Although Winnipeg has won the Wesmen Classic a record 11 times, they haven't taken the title since 2006 -- and that, Clennon said, isn't far from the players' minds.
"It's very big to us," said Clennon, who with 19 points was named player of the game. "We feel like we're competitive. We want to be known as one of the better teams, and winning this would make us known... It's always good to win at home because the community comes out. We have to win for the fans."
The Wesmen will now get ready to face the University of Manitoba Bisons, who downed Valley City State University (N.D.) 71-62.
That's just the tip of the Wesmen Classic's basketball iceberg, though. The 47th annual basketball extravaganza entered its second day on Saturday with a bevy of ballgames at Duckworth Centre. Among them, the university tournament kicked off as the University of Regina beat the Bluehawks men 83-79, and the Ottawa Gee-Gees bested the Brandon University Bobcats 78-70 to set up the other semifinal match.
On the high school side, the Mennonite Brethren Hawks squad put up a barrage of shots against the Oak Park Raiders to earn their spot in the Wesmen Classic final.
The Hawks, riding a huge 28-point, six-rebound performance from guard Torrez McKoy, survived a second-half pushback to seal their win 83-77.
The Raiders actually made cleaner shots in the first half, making 42.9 per cent of their attempts from the field, but the Hawks responded by outshooting them 46-35 in the first two quarters.
They ended the game with 86 shots to 71, enough to pull the game back into their favour after the Raiders took a brief lead in the third quarter.
"We kind of had a little bit of a lull, but we're a team that we like to run, and we shoot a lot," said coach Jon Goossen.
"We've had some good battles with (Oak Park) already, and I'm just happy with how the guys persevered. They pushed through."
The Hawks will now wait to face the winner of this afternoon's semifinal between the Kelvin Clippers and the Garden City Fighting Gophers.
The Classic continues today with seven games, including a women's exhibition match between the Wesmen and Dickinson State at 2 p.m., the second high school semifinal between the Kelvin Clippers and the Garden City Fighting Gophers at 7 p.m., and both university semifinal games in the evening. The championship finals are slated for Monday night.
Full tournament info is available at Wesmenca.