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Calgary Dinos win first-ever U Sports national basketball men’s championship

History was made as the Calgary Dinos claimed their first-ever Canadian U Sports men’s basketball title, defeating the Ryerson Rams in a thrilling final.

Calgary Dinos Win First Ever National Basketball Mens Championship
Calgary Dinos Win First Ever National Basketball Mens Championship

For the first time ever, the Calgary Dinos can call themselves the Canadian U Sports men’s basketball champions.

In a battle of two teams looking for their first title, the No. 2 seeded Calgary Dinos defeated the No. 5 Ryerson Rams in a thrilling 79-77 National Championship game that came down to the last play.

With the Rams trailing 77-74 and 16 seconds remaining, first-team All-Canadian guard Manny Diressa capped off a furious comeback by burying a clutch three-point shot to tie the score at 77-77 with nine seconds left on the clock.

Calgary Dinos Mambi Diawara Game Winner Usports National Basketball Mens Championship
Calgary Dinos Mambi Diawara game winner U Sports national basketball men’s championship – Photo: Trevor MacMillan & Mona Ghiz

Coaching in his second title game and sixth USports/CIS Final 8, Dinos head coach Dan Vanhooren opted to call a timeout to calm his troops. His veteran team responded by executing his instructions and play-calling to perfection. All-Star Mambi Diawara came off a double baseline screen and smoothly scored the game’s final two points with two seconds remaining.

Diawara, a fourth-year, six-foot-four guard from Montreal, Quebec, finished with 14 points, 10 rebounds, and 6 assists, earning Final 8 all-tournament All-Star honours.

Point guard David Kapinga (Calgary, Alta.), playing in his second championship game in three years, was not to be denied after falling short against the Carleton Ravens in 2016. The five-foot-five, 175-pound guard muscled and carried his team to victory with Most Valuable Player (MVP) 25 points, eight rebounds, six assists, and a 10-of-20 shooting performance.

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Calgary Dinos David Kapinga Flexing Usports National Basketball Mens Championship
Calgary Dinos David Kapinga flexing his muscles at the 2018 U Sports national basketball men’s championship – Photo Trevor MacMillan & Mona Ghiz

Calgary got off to a hot start, with six-foot-eight, 210-pound German international import Lars Schueter scoring the team’s first ten points on 7/15 shooting for a total of 18 points. A three-pointer by Kapinga helped push the Dinos’ lead to nine points at 13-4, forcing a timeout from Ryerson. As expected, the Rams responded, largely due to the efforts of Jean Victor-Mukama from Hamilton, ON, who made multiple attempts to cut the lead to three points. However, Calgary continued to execute their sets and led 39-30 at halftime.

After a scoreless first quarter and just six points in the first half, the Rams’ fifth-year senior, Manny Diressa, took over the game, scoring 24 of his game-high 28 points in the second half. Ryerson closed the deficit to within four at 55-51, but another David Kapinga three-pointer gave Calgary a 57-51 lead with the final quarter of the season remaining. Determined not to squander their second consecutive title game, the Ryerson Rams ripped off an 8-0 run to open the quarter and grabbed their first lead of the game at 59-57 on Diressa’s traditional hoop plus the harm three-point play.

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There, the action intensified with both teams exchanging baskets and the lead four times, including six ties in the last six minutes. Calgary put pressure on the Rams, scoring two key baskets in the last minute for a 76-70 advantage before the late game heroics.

Diressa capped off a stellar three-year career by averaging a tournament best 27 points per game, 5.3 assists, 3.3 rebounds and shooting 52.1% from the field and 90.9 from the free-throw line.

The two teams also met in preseason non-conference action back on October 22, 2017 at the Brock Badgers Classic. The Dinos pulled off a tough 87-85 overtime win.

Calgary Dinos 2018 Usports National Basketball Mens Champions
Calgary Dinos 2018 U Sports national basketball men’s champions

The win is Calgary’s first in 15 championship appearances dating back to 1966. Having reached the national semi-finals on three occasions during Vanhooren era they finally were able to get over the hump in a deserving victory that will forever be remembered in Dinos history.

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