Print Edition: September 12, 2012
The Cascades’ second exhibition game of the season started off in dubious struggle on Monday night as the men surrendered one to the Eastern Washington University Eagles (79-84). The international clash pitted a fresh-faced UFV team against the power of a NCAA Division One school coupled with a frighteningly efficient contingent of German transfer students (here’s to you Martin Seiferth, Thomas Rueter and Frederik Jörg). Despite a noticeable disadvantage in the category of scary seven-foot-tall, blonde Aryans, the Cascades put on a show that bodes well for the coming year.
As stated above the Cascades began the night dubiously, quickly springing to a 16 point deficit in the first quarter. New UFV head coach Adam Friesen looked nervous, the Germans looked unstoppable, and the home crowd was envisioning a flashback to last week’s 96-56 loss to Cal State. The men themselves were shooting like a bunch of traditional Mennonites at a rifle range, and even Jordan Blackman, the only one of last year’s starters left on the court, couldn’t seem to shake the shudder.
The Cascades made a short run at the end of the quarter to cut the lead to 10, but it wasn’t until the second half that the squad showed some semblance of last year’s form. They spent much of the third quarter chipping away at the Eagles lead, and (in the fourth) pulled within one with 2:15 remaining courtesy of a beautiful three-ball from first year point guard Manjodh Dulay. That moment, at least for this reporter, was a deeply satisfying one. Looking down the Eagles bench to their coaching staff, a half dozen big white men squirming on ridiculously small chairs, was almost a patriotic experience.
UFV made it interesting, but a number of critical turnovers in the fourth kept the men from actually taking a lead over their opponents. The Eagles’ press break worked with disappointing efficiency, accumulating critical points with time winding down as the Cascades simply bent under the pressure.
“We’ve been practicing for only four days as a complete team” said coach Friesen after the game, “and we’ve just been working on offence. So basically we’ve just solely focused on offensive execution and trying to play together and get the best shot possible.”
Still, a five-point loss against a Div One team is a promising start for the squad, especially since it was accomplished without fifth year stalwarts Sam Freeman or Kyle Grewal who didn’t dress due to small injuries. Blackman, one of the best freshman in the west last season, dropped a monstrous 30 points, including a 6-12 performance from behind the arc.
Eagles coach Jim Hayford had some positive remarks about UFV’s performance following the game. “I thought Fraser Valley played with extremely great effort,” he said, “and played as hard as any team we’ve played against on our tour. It’s our fourth game in four days, that’s a lot of travel. Fatigue maybe is starting to set in, but they played with exceptional effort and their one player [Blackman] had a tremendous night. He’s a great basketball player.”
Friesen was also encouraged by his team’s performance. “I was happy, I was very happy,” he said. “With our three fifth years not playing it was a good opportunity for a lot of guys to step up and show what they’re made out of. A lot of guys showed a lot of good things, and after four days [of practice] you can’t ask for more than that.”