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Cascades impress, show improvement

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The UFV men’s team came into the 2018-19 season with a few interesting storylines. One was that Sukhjot Bains, a former NCAA talent would be joining his brother Navjot Bains for Sukhjot’s fourth and Navjot’s fifth year of eligibility. Despite this, the team had a low pre-season ranking. It was evident that any number of outcomes were possible for this team that was clearly talented but had yet to incorporate an integral piece: the newest Bains.

The season began emphatically with, potentially, the most dramatic regular season game of the entire campaign. The visiting TRU Wolfpack sent the game to overtime and just barely escaped with a 69-64 win. As hard of a loss as it was, fans in attendance saw more than just a score. They saw a new beginning for the Cascades, a fast-paced team that was very talented and shot the ball exceptionally well. When UFV came back the next night to win 83-72, the ball began to roll for the Cascades as a team.

This did not mean that the Cascades were clear of danger. A pair of road losses to Saskatchewan and a destructive home loss to Alberta on Friday, Nov. 9 had the new team reeling. They were talented and playing well, but they tended to start slow and loose against faster teams who utilized a more small-ball style of play.

After these initial losses, UFV went on a 10-game win streak, smashing through teams on route to their impending playoff debut. However, some late season struggles saw the Cascades record drop to 2-3 in their last five games. At this point, fans at the Envision Financial Athletic Centre did not fret, because news quickly broke that UFV would host its first-round, one-game playoff matchup right there in Abbotsford. Now all they had to do was make good on their commitment to playing hard and focus against a UNBC squad they had swept just a few months prior.

The game was hard; UFV came out completely flat and the high IQ plays of Jovan Leamy and James Agyeman were on display for the Timberwolves. A recurring theme for the Cascades during the regular season was their inability to use their size. Oftentimes the Cascades struggled on the first night of back-to-backs, but completely dominated the second night due to their recommitment to their style of play which features size and shooting. How would this work against a team where there was no first game? The Cascades needed to make moves, fast.

They did just that, coming back from a 26-38 halftime score to win the game 67-59. The reception was nothing short of special, as the Cascades had now effectively proven that they were not a first-round exit team, but rather, a team that could make a lot of noise. Then came the news many fans were hoping not to hear: UFV would have to go on the road to play the UBC Thunderbirds, a perennial powerhouse team, in a three-game series.

The Cascades went in and shocked the crowd on Valentine’s Day, when in their opening meeting they blew the T-birds out, winning 92-79. It was simply the best performance the team had given in their entire 2018-19 campaign, and it was nothing short of spectacular. UBC was far from out, however. They came back to take the Friday night game by a score of 85-58. On Saturday, Feb. 16, it all came down to UBC and UFV. UBC edged the game 85-73 and just like that, the Cascades’ season was over.

What was the takeaway? Absolute pride. The UFV Cascades did not just prove that they can step their game up as a team, but that each player can grow individually, and rise to the occasion when needed. On a team full of stars, former walk-on Parm Bains made the largest improvement. One season removed from the year he walked onto the practice court looking for an opportunity, Bains led the team in scoring at 16.1 points a game. His statistical improvement was so noticeable, he was selected to be a Canada West second team all-star in only his second year with UFV and fourth year overall.

Indeed, the Cascades, if nothing else, delivered on their promise to bring fun, exciting, and winning basketball to UFV fans. Though seniors have left, and the landscape of the team will change accordingly, there is much to look forward to when the Cascades next step on the court.

Image: Navjot Bains. Feb. 2019 (UFV Flickr)

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