Spartans' Smith comes up clutch at both ends of the floor

Trinity Western Spartans
Trinity Western Spartans' Tristan Smith goes up for the tough lay-up against the UBC Okanagan Heat on Saturday at the Langley Events Centre. Smith sunk two free throws with 1.8 seconds remaining to put his team up 71-69 and then blocked a three-point Heat attempt at the buzzer to preserve the victory.
— image credit: TWU Athletic Department

The Trinity Western Spartans avoided a fourth-quarter meltdown against the UBC Okanagan Heat to win 71-69, their sixth straight Canada West men’s basketball game.

And coupled with a 73-68 win the night before against the Heat, the Spartans are bound for the playoffs for a third straight season.

The Spartans hosted the Heat on Friday and Saturday at the Langley Events Centre, improving to 11-9. The record has the team tied for third spot in the Pacific Division with the University of the Fraser Valley Cascades and the two teams close out the regular season with a home-and-home series, Friday in Abbotsford and Saturday at the LEC. The latter game tips off at 7 p.m.

The Spartans nearly blew a 21-point lead in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s win. But with the score tied at 69, Tristan Smith hit a pair of free throws with 1.8 seconds remaining and then blocked a buzzer-beater three-pointer to preserve the victory.

“We have to regain our level of discipline in the half court and the fourth quarter,” said coach Scott Allen.

“Our defence is good for three quarters and then it is breaking down.

“It feels like we are taking steps to get where we want, but we are also taking steps backwards.

“Good teams are going to take advantage if we don’t get more disciplined.”

Denny McDonald and Tonner Jackson had 16 points apiece while Smith had 13 points to go along with his six assists, six steals, five rebounds and one blocked shot.

In Friday’s win, TWU was up by 19 points after three quarters before the Heat pulled to within five thanks to a 26-12 fourth-quarter advantage.

Jackson led the offence with 19 points while Smith, Mark Perrin and Kurtis Osborne had 10 points apiece.

One area the Spartans are going to have to tighten up is their free throw shooting, as they went a combined 22-for-38, a paltry 58 per cent.

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