Photo by Davie Wong
Photo by Davie Wong

Men’s Basketball faces tough challenge

By Davie Wong, Sports Editor

Coming home for this weekend was always going to be tough. The Royals faced one of the PACWEST’s best in VIU as well as positional contenders Camosun in the same weekend. It would be a good test of strength for the team to see just how much they had improved over the break.

Going into the VIU game, confidence was high. It was a bit of a patchy start for the team, but they bounced back and kept it close in the third, only allowing VIU to have a three-point lead. Speaking of three points, that was the theme of the game for both squads. With both teams playing lockdown defence, the game turned into a three throwing contest. Both teams peppered the netting with fantastic shots and neither team really let up.

The intensity of the game carried into the second quarter, where the Royals fended off a VIU attack with some offence of their own. VIU ultimately came out ahead of the Royals at half time, balancing their three point lead and holding it high.

Things picked up right where they left off in the third as both squads continued to rain down shots from afar. Both squads were only fractions apart from each other throughout the third, and things went into the fourth still as they were, with the Royals trailing by only three. But in the fourth, it would be those three points that downed the Royals. As close as the two teams were, VIU had the three points up, and the Royals had to foul themselves into a deeper hole to try and comeback. However, that comeback didn’t happen, and the VIU Mariners walked away with a 77–69 win over the Royals.

VIU’s Usama Zaid was a spectacle to behold that night. In 14 minutes, Zaid tallied 33 points for his team and 9 rebounds. This is some incredible efficiency.

On the Royals side, there were several players who made big impacts. Sheldon Derton scored 21 points, Grant Campbell had 11 on the night, and Malcolm Mensah picked up 14 of his own. But the player that had the biggest impact on the court had to be Reese Morris. Reese had 18 points and 11 rebounds en-route to his second double-double of the season.

With that game in the books, the team turned to the Camosun Chargers. They set the perfect tone early into the game, scoring 23 points to Chargers’ 22 in the first quarter. But the team couldn’t quite hold on in the second quarter, where the Chargers came back and snatched away the lead. They walked into halftime leading the Royals 40–37.

Things only got worse for the Royals after halftime, as the Chargers plunged their lead deeper. Another eight point differential gave the Chargers a massive lead going into a vital fourth frame. The Royals managed to come back and nick three points off the Chargers, but the three wasn’t enough, and they fell to the visiting Camosun squad.

The Chargers were led by some fantastic individual play. Evan Woodson had a team-high 29 points from the bench. Mathew Hampton sank 16 points and picked up 11 rebounds for a double-double to lift his squad to a win.

Over on the Royals side, there were several big performances. In his 10 minutes on the court, Grant Campbell grabbed 14 points for the team. Reese Morris had 11 points and 8 rebounds. But the Royals’ monster came from the bench and was massive. Malcolm Mensah was instrumental to the Royals staying in as long as they did, with 27 points on the night, as well as 15 rebounds to snag his second double-double of the season.

The weekend’s results bode poorly for the Royals in the standings. While VIU, Langara, and Capilano are all tied up for first at 8–2, the Royals sit at fourth with a 4–6 record. They are tied with Quest, and only one game ahead of the Camosun Chargers. While the playoffs are certainly within reach, the team really needs to consider positioning as the top three continue to drift away from them, and the bottom two continue to drift closer.