High stakes in crosstown grudge match

Bisons-Wesmen weekend hoops showdown has national playoff implications


Advertise with us

The Manitoba Bisons and the Winnipeg Wesmen have a storied rivalry when it comes to men’s basketball.

Read this article for free:


Already have an account? Log in here »

To continue reading, please subscribe:

Monthly Digital Subscription

$4.75 per week*

  • Enjoy unlimited reading on winnipegfreepress.com
  • Read the E-Edition, our digital replica newspaper
  • Access News Break, our award-winning app
  • Play interactive puzzles

*Billed as $19.00 plus GST every four weeks. Cancel anytime.

The Manitoba Bisons and the Winnipeg Wesmen have a storied rivalry when it comes to men’s basketball.

Trouble is, many of the best moments in the crosstown feud are ancient history culled from the 1970s and ’80s. Those memories are cherished by older hoop enthusiasts, but have little resonance for young fans.

In fact, you have to go back to 1984-85 to remember the last time the Wesmen and Bisons battled for a conference championship, with the Herd coming out on top of the Great Plains Athletic Conference to advance to the national championship tournament where they finished third.

Now, with the schools set to play a regular-season home-and-home series this weekend, the current crop of players is promising to turn a local grudge match into a war with national title implications.

The Bisons, ranked No. 5 in the latest national coaches poll and sitting first in Canada West with a 15-1 record, host the Wesmen, ranked 10th and sitting third in the conference with a 13-3 mark, on Friday at Investors Group Athletic Centre. The teams play again Saturday at the Duckworth Centre.

“I always have to circle our crosstown rivals every time I see them on the schedule,” said Wesmen point guard Shawn Maranan Tuesday. “So it’s obviously exciting. I’m looking forward to it and to have both teams kind of rolling right now. I mean, both have really good records, we both have been playing really well. So for us to kind of clash at this time of the year, it’s gonna be awesome.”

Maranan, who has blossomed offensively in his third season of eligibility, leads the Wesmen in scoring with 14.4 points per game, which is good for 22nd in the conference.

The 5-8 local product also leads the conference in assists with 6.1 per game and is seventh in steals with 2.0 per game.

“It’s been a bit of a transition year for him as we’re asking him to do a little bit more on the offensive end and seeing week to week, kind of what type of game plan is coming at him,” said Wesmen head coach Mike Raimbault. “He’s seen bigger defenders, he’s seen quicker guys, double teams, different coverages and all of those things, and I think he’s done a really great job of handling the challenge week to week.”

Maranan should expect to see a lot of second-year Manitoba guard Mason Kraus

“Going against Shawn is always fun so it’s gonna be a very competitive game,” said the 6-2 Kraus. “I know we’re both very good defenders and very good point guards.”

The rangy Kraus is also in the midst of an all-star calibre season. His 5.2 assists per game are fourth in the conference while his 2.8 steals per game are tied for second best.

“He’s a tremendous player,” said Maranan. “He’s a guy who I consider my friend. So it’s gonna be a lot of fun to go to battle with him again.”

When the 2022-23 season began, neither team received much attention in pre-season polls: Manitoba was ranked sixth in the pre-season Canada West poll; Winnipeg landed in the eighth spot.

“We didn’t really have much respect going in but that’s usually how it is with Manitoba-(based) teams,” said Kraus. “But I know it’s gonna be a very close weekend. I know it always is between U of M and U of W.”

Raimbault believes the Bisons will be a tough out.

“They have a really talented group and they’re playing really well together as a team,” said Raimbault. “I think they have great depth and good size, they have the ability to play different types of lineups and different people in different positions on the floor.”

Whatever happens this weekend, the Bisons and Wesmen may be stuck with second- and third-place conference finishes with only four regular-season games remaining on their respective schedules.

The No. 1-ranked Victoria Vikes, currently second in Canada West with a 14-2 record could very well be seeded first for the post-season with fewer wins based on their superior Ratings Power Index, a metric that measures strength of schedule.

“I’m not worried about that — I’m just totally thinking about this weekend and trying to get a win,” said Manitoba head coach Kirby Schepp. “These games against Winnipeg are going to be really, really tough but… keep an eye on this. It could be a two-versus-three (playoff game) — if we (Winnipeg and Manitoba) both won our first-round playoff matchup — that would be the (semifinal) game to go to nationals.”

Record-setter: U of W guard Kyanna Giles was named Canada West’s player of the week in women’s basketball following a sensational series against the Fraser Valley Cascades.

The fifth-year guard set a Canada West-era school record with 46 points on 48 per cent shooting in Friday’s win. Giles went 14-for-29 from the field, made two of six from three-point ranger and also set career-highs for free throw attempted and made with 17 and 16, respectively. She added nine rebounds and three steals.

Giles’ 46 points ranks third all-time in school history behind Sandra Carroll’s 51 against Regina in 1994 and Beth Cochran’s 48 in 1983, both during the GPAC era.

Giles leads the Wesmen, fourth in Canada West with a 12-4 record, into a weekend against 4-12 Bisons, who sit 14th in the conference.


Mike Sawatzky

Mike Sawatzky

Mike has been working on the Free Press sports desk since 2003.

Report Error Submit a Tip


Advertise With Us