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Season Review

 

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Steve Burrows knows the University of Regina Cougars made great strides during the 2015-16 Canada West men’s basketball season.

Call him greedy, but he still would have liked to see a couple more.

“We’re pleased but not satisfied,” said Burrows, the Cougars’ head coach. “We’re happy with how far we’ve come. But if you lose your last game, you’ve got to keep working.”

The Cougars’ season ended Saturday, when they lost 86-73 to the Thompson Rivers WolfPack in Kamloops. By winning the last two games of a best-of-three quarterfinal, TRU qualified for the Canada West Final Four in Calgary.

The Cougars, meanwhile, flew through Calgary on their way home Sunday, no doubt disappointed to have let a series lead get away.

But Burrows talked all season about playing in “meaningful games” like the contests in Kamloops — and that hasn’t always been the case for Regina in recent years.

Prior to this season, the Cougars hadn’t made the Canada West playoffs since the spring of 2011. They earned their berth this season by finishing fifth in the Prairie Division and seventh overall in the conference.

Regina played host to the Winnipeg Wesmen in a best-of-three series to see who would move on to a quarterfinal. After losing Game 1, the Cougars won two straight to advance.

“We learned a lot about ourselves in the last half of the season,” Burrows said. “We got to play in a lot of big games — and that’s the key. You can’t just talk about them. You’ve got to experience them.”

The Cougars went 11-9 in the regular season, the most victories they’ve had in a season since a 14-win campaign in 2010-11.

Regina was led offensively by Jonathan Tull, who averaged 16.9 points per game in the regular season. Eight Cougars averaged at least 6.8 points per game and three shot 33 per cent or better from the three-point line.

And despite dealing with injuries and illness all season, Regina beat some high-calibre teams en route to the playoffs.

“The character on this team is pretty strong, so we were able to deal with adversity and turn it into a positive,” Burrows said. “If you can do that as a team, you become stronger.

“It’s not an easy thing to do, but you have to face it — and we were able to do that.”

Tull and Will Tallman have exhausted their five seasons of CIS eligibility, so the Cougars must replace their experience, scoring and leadership.

Regina had six redshirts this season and an import added by Burrows at Christmas (Rawane Ndiaye) had to leave before the playoffs due to a visa issue. That means there are options to fill holes in the roster next season, but Burrows still will hit the recruiting trail.

That said, the head coach believes the players currently on the roster can help the Cougars continue their progression.

“If we get younger people to step up into leadership roles, we can be consistent,” Burrows said. “We had a lot of firsts this year, which was good. But we don’t want to say (in the future), ‘It’s been six years since we’ve done that,’ or ‘We’ve never done that.’ We don’t want it to be six years before we host another playoff series.”

NOTE: Tull was named a Canada West second-team all-star Monday. Regina product Chan De Ciman, a guard with the Saskatchewan Huskies, earned a spot on the all-rookie team … On the women’s side, Cougars forward Charlotte Kot (first team) and post Alyssia Kajati (third team) were named conference all-stars.

ihamilton@postmedia.com