Print Edition: February 27, 2013
On to the next one. The Cascades women’s basketball team is on to the Canada West final four next weekend, after a hard fought series at the Envision Athletic Center (EAC) over the weekend.
The University of the Fraser Valley squad took a 2-1 series victory over the visiting University of Saskatchewan Huskies. The weekend series was an entertaining and captivating affair that left spectators on their feet applauding long after the final buzzer sounded.
On opening night the gym rattled with a nervous energy from a home crowd who had huge expectations from a UFV team that had performed so well all season long. This must have been the same thing the Cascades felt as well, as the team came out full of energy and playing at full speed, but seemingly without their shooting touch. After a rough first quarter where the team scored only seven points the women slowly regained their confidence and used their athleticism and speed to out-rebound the visiting Huskies – allowing them to make up for initial poor shooting.
Sarah Wierks was a monster on the glass, picking up an eye popping 17 rebounds with nine of them on the offensive end. On this night no Cascade shot particularly well, but a lone bright spot was Jaslyen Singh who came off the bench to shoot a tidy two for two from three point land. In a messy affair the Cascades used their deep bench and hustle plays to come out on top 65-58.
On Friday, night two of action, spectators at the EAC were treated to a reversal of roles from the teams. Time after time the Huskies came up with loose balls and rebounds that would have belonged to the UFV team a night earlier. The Cascades still had not found their shooting touch around the basketball on this night, and unlike game one of the series they did not win the rebounding battle. The Huskies six-foot-three centre Dalyce Emmerson took control of the game for long periods of time, towering over the smaller Cascades defenders and getting to the basket with ease. The visiting Huskies walked away with an 11-point 67-56 point victory, forcing the series to a third and deciding elimination game.
On Saturday night the EAC was buzzing with that playoff atmosphere that every athlete and sports fan lives for. The game took off at a rapid pace, with every basket being celebrated by the fans in the building as though it was the game-winning point. By halftime UFV seemed to have the game under control, cruising to a 35-23 lead. As the teams traded baskets in the third and early in the fourth quarter it seemed as though UFV had a comfortable hold on victory. Midway through the fourth quarter a huge basket from Huskies centre Emmerson seemed to light a fire for the Saskatchewan squad and in an amazing turn of momentum the Huskies cut a double digit lead to a mere two points over a three minute span. Just as the Huskies seemed poised to take the lead, UFV forward Nicole Wierks came through in a huge way with a layup on one end followed by a steal on defence the next possession. Wierks ended up getting fouled on the resulting fast break and sank two free throws, essentially shutting the door on the Huskies’ comeback aspirations.
As the final buzzer sounded it was the Cascades winning the all-important game three of the series 73-58. The women were led by Kayli Sartori on the night with 19 points. Nicole Wierks also played a major role for the Cascades with 10 rebounds on the night and nine points.
It was a weekend of ups and downs for the Cascades who seemed to struggle with shooting consistency. When reflecting on the weekend, fourth-year guard Alexa McCarthy commented, “each night it came down to which team wanted it more. Neither team shot especially well over the series so it just came down to the 50/50 balls and rebounding.”
On the Huskies, McCarthy stated, “they were a pretty even matchup for us. In the end we just outlasted them and were hungrier when it mattered.”
The Cascades now look ahead in their quest for a national title to the Canada West Final Four which is hosted at the University of Calgary on March first and second. Although their matchup is not yet decided for the semi-final game, the Cascades can go into this next stage of the playoffs knowing that they can play with any team in the country on any given night. The women need a victory in their semi-final series to ensure a berth to nationals, something that has been an ever-elusive goal for this team. Twice they have been to the Final Four and twice they have lost the semi-final.
As a member of both those teams McCarthy put it very plainly: “we feel like we have been here before and are not happy with just showing up to the games. We have set our sights on nationals this year and anything less would be a disappointment for our team.”
Is this the team that will finally get over the hump and reach that national stage? They have had a season that would point towards a resounding “yes” to that question. This is a team that is very talented and coordinated, and has years of playoff experience behind it. To top that off they are getting solid contributions from role players off the bench. As a unit this team may be the best in the country. They may lack that one overbearing superstar that takes the majority of shots or soaks up the spotlight, but as a unit they have bought into the idea that basketball is a sport that is based around defence and have found success in that identity.
Buying into head coach Al Tuchsherer’s game plan has moulded a group of talented individuals into a well-functioning unit.
“We have put our trust in our coaching staff day in and day out to put the right game plans in place to allow us to succeed,” said Sarah Wierks. “As a team we know that if we buy into the plan that our coaching staff has laid out on a given night we can beat any team in the country.”
This year’s Cascades are the most talented assortment of athletes that UFV has ever been able to put on the court, and as the shot at a national title becomes a more and more likely possibility, Cascades fans have to hope that this is the year for our women’s program to really put our school on the map in the CIS.
The UFV men’s basketball team continued to play the role of Cinderella over the weekend. In a season surrounded by setbacks and controversy, the men have managed to move on to the second round of the playoffs.
After long-time head coach Barnaby Craddock and several other players left for the University of Alberta last summer, there was talk that the team would miss the playoffs altogether. After a strong preseason the men worked themselves into a national ranking and again the league started to take notice of the team, only to see injuries to fifth-year stars Sam Freeman and Kyle Grewal.
The regular season saw a team plagued by injury fighting every night to compete. Just as the Cascades looked to have clinched a playoff spot an eligibility issue came forward and the team was stripped of two valuable wins that put their playoff hopes in jeopardy. Not to be deterred, the team battled forward, limping into the fourth and final playoff spot in the pacific division and earning the right to travel to Saskatoon to face the University of Saskatchewan Huskies. It was only fitting that the weekend had its fair share of drama in store for the Cascades squad.
In the lead up to the weekend the Cascades learned that they had lost their starting forward, Nathan Kendall, to sanctions placed on the team by the league due to the eligibility issue.
If this wasn’t enough, the team was going on the road for a playoff series, which in the Canada West often spells disaster. In the last four years the visiting team in a playoff series had never managed a series win. Home court and reffing advantages play a huge role in the game of basketball, so the Cascades knew they had to climb a mountain compete in the series.
The UFV men managed to pull out a solid 83-64 victory in game one through the hot shooting of fifth-years Sam Freeman and Kyle Grewal. On the second night, one final test was thrown at this beleaguered squad as Freeman was hit hard in the paint early in the night and suffered a broken rib, essentially ending his season. The news sent the team reeling as they dropped the game 78-58.
Facing a do-or-die elimination game, the Cascades were a long shot to beat a Huskies squad that was playing some of its best basketball of the season. Without their leading scorer and with few players to turn to the Cascades desperately needed a hero, someone to shoulder the load for the team.
That man was Klaus Figueredo. The reserve guard who spent much of the year out of play with a dislocated shoulder stepped up huge, shooting perfect from the field (six for six) and notching 22 points. Figueredo also took on the task of hounding Huskies star Stephon Lamar all night, doing an effective job in making the Huskies star work especially hard for every point.
In addition to Figueredo’s phenomenal outburst the Cascades received solid contributions from Manny Dulay and Andy Khaira who each netted 14 points. The Cascades have been thought to have a lack of depth, but on this night that notion was put to rest. In the coming weeks, the Cascades depth will continue to be tested as Freeman is unlikely to return and Kendal still has a one game suspension to serve.
With this complete team effort the Cascades move onto the Canada West Final Four at UBC March 1 and 2. A first or second place finish in this bracket elimination format tournament would ensure the men a berth to nationals. The Cascades will take on provincial rival UBC in the first night of action as they continue their quest for a national title.