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On the road again: Cascades fall to Thunderbirds on UBC turf in Men’s CIS West semi-finals

Last Friday, UFV sent a fan bus out to UBC to witness the Canada West Final Four clash between the Cascades and the UBC Thunderbirds. The bus was populated by such prestigious figures as Mark and Maureen Evered, Rocky Olfert, and even @goUFV’s own Anne Russell, which of course meant The Cascade sent its scurviest scalawags, Jasper (@Jasp_8) and Paul (@Cascade_Sports). They traveled deep into enemy territory in the search both for some quality basketball and cute Vancouverite undergrads. Even though the Cascades lost 68-61, at least the search for good ball was successful.

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By Paul Esau and Jasper Moedt (The Cascade) – Email

Print Edition: March 6, 2013

Last Friday, UFV sent a fan bus out to UBC to witness the Canada West Final Four clash between the Cascades and the UBC Thunderbirds. The bus was populated by such prestigious figures as Mark and Maureen Evered, Rocky Olfert, and even @goUFV’s own Anne Russell, which of course meant The Cascade sent its scurviest scalawags, Jasper (@Jasp_8) and Paul (@Cascade_Sports). They traveled deep into enemy territory in the search both for some quality basketball and cute Vancouverite undergrads. Even though the Cascades lost 68-61, at least the search for good ball was successful.

Paul: So I first wanted to congratulate whoever had the idea to rent a bus and ship a bunch of Cascades fans to the game. I don’t know where Point Grey is, let alone how to get there at night in the rain. And I’m also thankful to game coordinator Alicia Hurley for stopping the bus in the UFV parking lot to pick up this idiot Cascade sports editor who didn’t realize that 4:30 p.m. was the time the bus was leaving. Though I still think that, if you’re over 6-foot-2, a charter bus is a form of torture not transportation. Of course if Jasper hadn’t made me sit next to the window …

Jasper: First of all, congratulations on nearly missing the bus. I figured my sports editor would be able to tell time. Secondly, seniority rules on bus trips. I have logged my fair share of hours on a bus travelling, you’ve got to do your time squished up against the window, kid. The ride out was painful either way, but it gave some diehard fans a good chance to discuss the keys to the game. In the end we decided that without Sam Freeman (broken rib) we were going to have a tough time putting up points, and that we would need a big night from Kyle Grewal. It is incredibly tough to win a playoff game on the road, especially without your leading scorer.

Paul: Well, I guess I can concede your seniority in terms of long bus trips. I mean, it is a long Greyhound ride back from the University of Alberta … But I agree that without Freeman we weren’t supposed to have a prayer against that UBC squad. UFV had what, nine active players coming into Friday? I checked the box score and only seven players actually saw the floor, and that includes only four guards. I’m amazed James York could drag his sorry butt off the court after a performance with that much heart, and I’m not going to discuss the unspeakable joy I felt at watching Andy Khaira swatting shots back to the foul line. That man is a gem, I would buy him a drink any day of the week.

Jasper: You must be mistaken. I don’t think athletes drink. You would do better offering him a protein shake since that man is a monster. As we found our seats and the building filled up I could quickly see that the 100 strong group of UFV fans was not going to be enough to drown out a sea of UBC supporters that reached 2000 plus by mid-first quarter. As the game began every fan in the building could sense the playoff intensity in the air. Every action on the court was greeted by cheers or an outrage that shook the building to the rafters. It was an amazing environment for a sports fan.

Paul: Considering the average attendance at most CIS games, it was refreshing to have that many fans under one roof. Of course, there are always irritations when you have to get close and personal with fans of the other team. The UBC mom in front of me with the cowbell was pretty aggressive (but I’m sure I gave as good as I got). More problematic was the moment I had to hold CIVL Radio’s Aaron Levy into his seat after a bunch of wet-behind-the-ears UBC first-years started chanting “C+ average!” from across the court. Levy was about to make a friendly retort (something about “daddy’s money”) when I did some quick math, realized we were outnumbered by several orders of magnitude, and saved him from being clonked in the noggin with a cowbell. I mean, if Aaron and I had got involved in a scuffle I have complete faith that UFV president Mark Evered (who was sitting a couple rows back) would have waded in after us, but while I’m sure Dr. Evered has an impressive jab-hook combo I didn’t like his chances against the two angry mothers in front of us. So ultimately, good judgment prevailed.

Jasper: So much testosterone! Why can’t we all just get along? I just came to enjoy a sporting event and UBC fans start chanting their letter grade at me. I wasn’t sure how to react! I mean, I don’t think advertising your “C+ average” is something you want to be doing. Maybe spend fewer nights in the beer garden at sporting events and more nights in the library? But back to the game. The men came out really strong in the first quarter defensively. There is nothing I love more than watching Klaus Figueredo dog UBC’s Doug Plumb on defence. You could see the frustration clear as day on Plumb’s face as Figueredo happily ran him down all over the court with apparent endless energy.

Paul: After Figueredo went 12-12 (four threes, two twos, and six foul shots) on Feb. 24 against Saskatchewan I was hoping coach Friesen would start him against UBC and I wasn’t disappointed. Now with Freeman gone it was an easy choice, but I’m still proud of any man who can miss half the season with a shoulder injury and come back in such fine form. And speaking of surprises on this team, what do you make of Manjodh Dulay’s game? Is there anyone on this squad who is not over-performing under coach Adam “The Physicist” Friesen?

Jasper: Coming back from what he went through is no easy task. To play with the level of confidence Figueredo has played with is a testament to his resilience and determination, definitely deserving of respect! Although I wish his name was easier to spell. The guy is a real pain to write about. Dulay has played really well this year. He has had a pretty phenomenal rookie year contributing to one of the top teams in Canada. For a guy who was relatively unknown coming out of high school he has really put his stamp on the team this year. Coach Friesen has worked some wonderful magic with the guys. He seems to have a way to instill confidence in all his troops, a quality that many coaches don’t have at the university level. Instead of instilling fear in the guys in order to get them to buy into his vision Friesen has shaped his vision with the team, creating something that all the players want to be part of.

Paul: To be honest, at the start of the year I didn’t think this Cascades squad would even make the Final Four. I was looking down the roster and after Freeman, Grewal and York it got sparse pretty quickly. Combining that with a first-year coach and the loss of two core players to Alberta seemed (to me) like a recipe for a disappointing season and a quick playoff exit. As a former varsity player yourself, what did you see in this Cascades squad that prevented them from crumbling under the pressure? I mean, with the recent eligibility suspension, the Freeman injury and the loss of Blackman at Christmas, it almost makes sense that they would crumble. How do they keep defying the law of averages?

Jasper: It would be fair to say that on paper that Cascades did not fit the bill to even be present in the Final Four. They have been given so many reasons to give up, and frankly you would be hard pressed to find someone outside of that team who would blame them for falling apart. But the beauty of basketball is that it is a team game and no single player can win a game by himself. I think it comes down to two factors for the Cascades. Firstly, they have that solid core of seniors who have heart. You could see it in every possession on the floor on Friday night. Grewal and York plainly and simply cared more than anyone else on the court. Heart is not something that you can train; either you have that passion or you don’t. The second factor is that coach Friesen has done a magnificent job making this team his own. Instead of a team that was missing guys from last year and hurting because of losses Friesen moulded a new identity and gave the guys a reason to play. When you play on a team that is fully committed and really believes what they are playing for you are much more likely to have success.

Paul: Well Jasper, I think we’ve probably crossed the line from unbiased journalism into blatant cheerleading, but with a squad like this year’s Cascades to root for, who can blame us? It’s not often that you get a team with a story like this one, a story that warms the cockles of a sport reporter’s heart.

It almost makes me want to make one of those Hollywood sport movies. You know, cast Akshay Kumar as Kyle Grewal, Chris Rock as Klaus Figueredo, Zac Efron as James York …

Jasper: And Jay Baruchel as the annoying sports editor who follows them around …

Paul: Yup, something like that.

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