BRITISH COLUMBIA

Goncin scores 41 as Saskatchewan advances to gold-medal game at Winter Games

02/19/2015 11:23 EST | Updated 04/21/2015 05:59 EDT
PRINCE GEORGE, B.C. - Nik Goncin got a taste of Canada Winter Games glory four years ago in Halifax when he helped Saskatchewan win a bronze medal— the province's highest finish ever.

On Thursday, Goncin guaranteed his team will do even better in 2015.

The 23-year-old from Regina was an unstoppable force picking up 41 points, more than half his team's offensive output in an 81-57 semifinal win over Alberta.

"Nik's a super-talented player, he's on the national team, one of the greatest players in the world and we tried to contain him and he was just on fire," said Ben Moronchuk, an 18-year-old from Edmonton who led Alberta with 23 points. "It's tough when he's shooting like that."

Goncin, who led his team in the preliminary round with 83 points in four games, set the tone Thursday with 26 of Saskatchewan's first-half points as they carried a 40-26 lead into the intermission.

"It's not just me, my teammates make me open and they attack and that's how I get open," Goncin said. "You look at all the low (classification) players you can't see on the stat sheet, they're running the picks and doing all those little things that help."

Goncin says this team is ready to take the next step in the final against Quebec.

"Last time we were super happy with a bronze medal and I think here we have the opportunity to take the gold medal," said Goncin. "Practice makes perfect and if we win, we won it in the off-season. It will be a reflection of how hard we've been working the last two years."

Goncin's shiftiness and fast-cut pivots got one of Alberta's best players, Bradon Doll, in foul trouble and Saskatchewan took advantage when Doll was stuck on the bench to go on a nine-point run in the third quarter. Doll was held to 10 points, a total matched by teammates Arinn Young.

Mitch Bossaer had 20 points and forced two turnovers and Brody Jobh sunk 10 points for Saskatchewan.

Saskatchewan finished atop the A pool at 4-0 while Alberta placed second in the B pool at 3-1.

"Saskatchewan has never been in the gold-medal game and it feels absolutely awesome," said Saskatchewan assistant coach Rob Sajtos. "We've been building on this for a long time and made it to the junior national final last year and I think we're ready."

Quebec (5-0) booked its place in Friday's final with a 78-36 win over Prince Edward Island. William Gamache and Benjamin Palmer each scored 20 points to lead Quebec. Liam Hickey led P.E.I. with 11 points and 11 rebounds, while Westley Johnson and Jeremy Watts each put up 10 points.

Alberta, which won the first Canada Games gold medal in 1995, will try for bronze against P.E.I.