By Jordan Stone
The Western men’s final home basketball game of the season almost turned into a shirts versus skins scrimmage when the Simon Fraser University Clan forgot to pack their jerseys for Tuesday’s game. The Clan had them delivered to Sam Carver Gymnasium all the way from their campus in Burnaby, British Columbia.
The jersey mishap delayed the opening tip by 35 minutes, but it didn’t take away from the moment for the six seniors who were honored on Senior Night before the game with their families. The Vikings went on to beat Simon Fraser 69-60.
That group of seniors was highlighted by captains Siaan Rojas, Logan Schilder and Trevor Jasinsky, all of whom started in their final home game as a Viking.
“We put our blood, sweat and tears into this program,” Jasinsky said. “We’ve had highs, we’ve had lows, but it’s pretty bittersweet.”
The night was emotional for the players and their families, but also for the coaches. The senior class has a special place in the heart of head coach Tony Dominguez.
“It’s tough to see these guys go because they have been so loyal,” Dominguez said. “I’m going to miss them dearly.”
Tuesday’s game went back and forth in the first half, highlighted by 6’1” senior guard Leif Anderson’s huge block on 6’11” Simon Fraser center Julian Roche.
Despite a 10-inch height difference, Anderson stuffed Roche’s layup attempt, then managed to corral the ball after the rejection and draw a foul. The play elicited an eruption from the Vikings’ bench as Anderson pumped up the crowd while getting to his feet.
“Leif is awesome,” Dominguez said. “It’s funny to watch a scrawny little guy get a block on the big seven-footer.”
The two teams battled to the end of the half, with the Vikings scrapping for a slim 33-28 lead into the break.
It was a slow start to the second half, with both teams failing to score in the first two and a half minutes. Once the shots started falling again, the game regained its intensity.
The teams traded baskets for the most of the second half, but one basket stood out from the rest.
With just under nine minutes to play, Jasinsky drilled a 3-pointer with a hand in his face for his ninth point of the game and 1,465 in his career. The bucket pulled him into a three-way tie with Ira Graham and Jeff Dick for 10th all-time leading scorer in Western history.
“It’s special. It’s a crazy, crazy accomplishment,” Jasinsky said. “I always believed that I’d be able to make it here, but really credit to all my teammates and coaches. They put me in a position throughout my entire career to get that.”
Jasinsky went on to break the tie late in the fourth quarter with a free throw. He finished the game with 10 points and is now in sole possession of 10th place on the Vikings’ all-time scorers list.
The Vikings closed Tuesday’s game on a 16-4 run, with redshirt freshman guard D’Angelo Minnis scoring nine during the run. Minnis hit a key 3-pointer with five and a half minutes to play, giving the Vikings the last lead they would need to hold off Simon Fraser. Minnis finished the game with 20 points.
“Siaan, one of the best passers in the league, just passed it to me wide open,” Minnis said. “I had to make it for the team. We needed it.”
Despite the high emotions for seniors, they were happy to win their final home game.
“I’m just really happy, man,” senior forward Cameron Retherford said. “I’ve had great experiences here at Western. To finish it out with a win with all the fans here was awesome.”
For Schilder and Rojas, the final home game was especially meaningful. The two captains battled injuries during the 2019 season, but returned this year to help lead the Vikings. Both put together 10-point performances in their last games inside Carver Gym.
“Very proud,” Rojas said. “I’ve been here for a lot of years, dealt with a lot in terms of injuries and just uphill battle.”
Dominguez said their injury history “100%” makes this moment more special for Schilder and Rojas.
With Tuesday’s win, the Vikings moved a half-game ahead of Northwest Nazarene University for second place in the GNAC. The top two teams in the GNAC get first round byes at the GNAC Championships.
The Vikings lost a crucial game against Montana State on Feb. 27, but were bailed out by Northwest Nazarene’s loss on Saturday, Feb. 29. The Vikings will be the number two seed in the GNAC championships and will play on Friday, March 6. They will take on the winner of the University of Alaska Fairbanks and Western Oregon University first round matchup.