Every time the Manitoba Bisons needed a big boost Saturday, they turned to one of the smallest players on their roster.
Jonar Huertas scored 23 points - most of them in key situations - to lead the Bisons to an 86-78 victory over the TRU WolfPack in a Canada West men's basketball game at the Tournament Capital Centre.
The victory leaves the Bisons 6-4 and tied for second in Canada West's East Division, while the WolfPack falls to 5-5 and is fourth in the West.
Saturday's game went back and forth throughout, but it appeared as though the WolfPack was finding its stride when it took an 11-point lead - the biggest for either side - with 1:23 remaining in the third quarter.
But Huertas, a 6-foot-0 guard, scored seven points in the next 1:11 as the Bisons cut the lead to five points after three, then scored the first basket of the fourth to bring Manitoba to within three.
Exactly 2:30 later, Huertas scored two more points to tie the game at 74, and the Bisons played the last seven minutes on a 12-4 run.
"I was just playing within the flow of the game," said Huertas, a fourth-year Winnipeg native. "I was coming off the bench, hoping to provide some scoring for our team. . . . I was pretty exhausted during that eight-point stretch."
Kurtis Sansregret had 22 points for Manitoba, and Kevin Oliver added 19. Keith Omoerah helped out with 12 rebounds.
Justin King had 24 points and 13 rebounds to lead TRU, with Chas Kok scoring 15 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. Kevin Pribilsky scored 14 points, while Brett Rouault came off the bench to put in 10.
TRU's defence, which is 12th in the 14-team conference in points allowed, struggled again Saturday, and looked especially beatable in the fourth quarter.
"I think our effort wasn't good enough at the defensive end," said WolfPack head coach Scott Reeves. "Our toughness wasn't good enough and that's what results when you can't fulfill your responsibilities at the defensive end."
The WolfPack is still in position to compete for a playoff spot, but its next four games - a home doubleheader against the UBC Thunderbirds (6-2) on Friday and Saturday, along with road games against the Saskatchewan Huskies (6-3) and the Alberta Golden Bears (6-4) the following week - are against top teams.
TRU also will play two games against the Trinity Western Spartans (4-6) and two against the UBC-Okanagan Heat (2-6).
Due to a scheduling conflict, the WolfPack's home games against UBC will be played at TRU Gym. Friday's game is to start at 8 p.m., with Saturday's start time scheduled for 7 p.m.
The WolfPack women's basketball team, meanwhile, got 25 points and 14 rebounds from Diane Schuetze in a 67-49 victory over the visiting Bisons on Saturday.
Schuetze, who had 29 points in an 84-61 home victory over the Winnipeg Wesmen on Friday, leads Canada West in scoring with 19.6 points per game.
Tracy Kocs also scored 12 points in the victory, and Kaitlyn Widsten scored nine.
Mubo Ilelaboye scored 12 points to lead Manitoba (3-7), Allison Balasko had 10 points and 10 rebounds, and Maria Pawlyshyn also grabbed 10 rebounds.
TRU (5-5) is at home to the Thunderbirds on Friday, 6 p.m., and Saturday, 5 p.m., at TRU Gym.
The WolfPack men's volleyball team went 0-for-3 on an exhibition trip to California, which ended with a three-set (25-21, 25-16, 25-20) loss to the host Stanford Cardinal on Saturday.
Brad Gunter had 10 kills, seven digs and three block assists for TRU, while Colin Carson had 22 set assists.
The WolfPack will return to Canada West play on Friday and Saturday against the T-Birds in Vancouver.
The WolfPack hockey team played to a 3-3 tie with the Portage College Voyageurs in an exhibition game played at Interior Savings Centre on Friday night.
The Voyageurs, who play in the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference, were on a three-game trip through B.C. - they played the Okanagan Coyotes in Kelowna on Saturday.
The WolfPack and Portage played in Princeton on Sunday. A score was not available by press time.
On Friday, Cody Rose, Kevin Nielsen and Mike McCance scored the WolfPack goals, and Shane Mainprize made 29 saves for TRU.
The WolfPack will return to B.C. Intercollegiate Hockey League action on Jan. 20, when it plays host to the Coyotes at Memorial.
© Kamloops Daily News