Print Edition: March 5, 2014
From the first minute, UFV out-duelled their playoff opponents, riding an early lead to a first-round success, even if it wasn’t the Cascades at their best.
The women’s team got right to work slowing down the streaky University of Calgary Dinos’ offense. Calgary was held to just four points in the opening quarter, and UFV had a comfortable 34-16 lead at halftime, coasting to an eventual 67-48 victory.
But just because the Dinos were losing battles under the rim doesn’t mean UFV was playing flawless basketball.
Head coach Al Tuchscherer saw room for improvement in his team’s play. Though Calgary gave UFV many opportunities to pad their lead, giving up 22 turnovers, the Cascades weren’t far behind at 16.
“I was hoping that we would be better offensively than we were, but we haven’t played in a couple weeks here, so I think that plays into it a little bit,” he said. “We have to be better tomorrow for sure.”
UFV had difficulty achieving consistency offensively, shooting only 36 per cent from the field. This sort of performance might work against the fourth-place Dinos, but would be poor preparation for the challenges ahead in the team’s post-season journey.
Game two was a chance for the Cascades to dispatch Calgary in two games, which would be a sign of strength as a team, and also a chance for an extra day of rest and preparation.
The Dinos, motivated by the threat of seeing their season coming to an end, made things a lot more even, and UFV’s good, but not dominant shooting continued. Three-point attempts were particularly weak. The Cascades struggled to convert on open looks, and would have been completely shut out from beyond the arc if not for the play of Nataliia Gavryliuk.
Gavryliuk, in her first year at UFV, is immediately striking as one of the team’s best players. A master of ball control, speed, and accuracy as a passer, Gavryliuk was the team’s player of the game, taking dead aim and draining threes, going 6-9 to lead all players.
UFV needed that kind of margin. Though it might have been apparent that the Cascades were the more talented team, they got into foul trouble, leaving room for Calgary’s two best scorers in Kristie Sheils and Tamara Jarrett to keep things close.
At halftime UFV led 33-30, the game still in reach, but the Cascades came out of the break a different team, igniting on an 11-2 run leading to a 60-48 win.
“With us I think it is bound to happen,” Tuchscherer said. “The first half I was just happy that we were up three or four, [because] I know that our depth is going to kick in … we grind teams down; that is typically what is going to happen for us.”
Tuchscherer saw his team play a tough game against a hard-fighting team, and knows they can’t take any team for granted — they were this far last season before a loss to the University of Regina knocked them into bronze medal contention.
“We had to grit one out here and they were fighting hard, it is always tough to knock a team out,” Tuchscherer said. “They have some veteran players and you know they have a lot of pride. The score isn’t fantastic but we did some good things and made some good adjustments.”
The series victory was not all positives for the Cascades. Three minutes into the first game, starter Kaitlyn Brink fell awkwardly and was unable to get up under her own power. She left the game with what looked like an ankle injury and did not return.
“If she’s out for a significant period of time that’s a pretty big loss for us,” Tuchscherer said. Brink appeared on the sidelines of game two wearing a walking boot, with her availability for next week’s semifinals in question.
The Cascades now face the daunting task of playing the University of Alberta Pandas at their home in Edmonton on Friday. The semifinal goes at 8 p.m., with the victor playing for gold the next day.
With files from Michael Scoular.