Frustrating finishes for UFV hoopsters

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After the final buzzer sounded at the Envision Athletic Centre on Saturday evening, University of the Fraser Valley guard Joel Friesen aptly summed up his team’s weekend by booting a chair in frustration.

Indeed, gut-wrenching losses were the theme for the Cascade hoopsters – the UFV men’s and women’s squads were each dealt a pair of demoralizing defeats by the visiting Regina Cougars.

The Cascade men, balanced precariously on the Canada West playoff bubble, suffered a heartbreaking 92-89 double-overtime loss to the Cougars on Friday. Regina completed the sweep with a gritty 87-83 win on Saturday.

The losses left the Cascades at 6-12 on the season, tied with the Calgary Dinos for the conference’s eighth and final playoff spot. Regina, at 12-6, is in fifth place.

“It’s frustrating,” Friesen said, “because it’s not the first semester anymore. We can’t be making the same mistakes we’ve been making the whole year.

“It’s not just the weekend – we’ve been in the majority of our games this season, but we haven’t been able to finish.”

Sam Freeman was on fire for the Cascades on Friday, scoring a game-high 29 points, including a sensational off-balance three-pointer at the buzzer to force a second overtime session. But the Cougars pulled away in the second OT.

Saturday’s game didn’t require extra time, but it was no less discouraging for the Cascades. After trailing by as many as nine points in the third quarter, UFV battled back to knot the score 73-73 with five minutes left in the fourth. Regina held a slender 84-83 lead in the final minute, but Cougars fifth-year forward Marek Donarowicz converted an old-fashioned three-point play – a tough driving layup plus a free throw – with 17.5 seconds remaining to give his team a four-point lead.

As has been the story for the Cascades this season, scoring wasn’t the major issue. UFV head coach Barnaby Craddock didn’t feel his team played particularly well offensively either night vs. Regina, but they still exceeded the 80-point plateau.

The more pressing concern came at the other end of the floor, as the Cascades struggled to slow the Cougars’ balanced attack.

“We have some real need for improvement on the defensive end, and it’s something we’re trying to address,” Craddock noted. “When we beat Alberta, we held them to 69 points. When we beat Calgary, we held them to 69. We’ve got to play better defence as a unit, and we’ve got a few more games to get better at that.”

The Cascades women find themselves in a slightly more comfortable playoff position than the men – at 8-10, they’re tied for seventh in Canada West. But a pair of weekend losses to Regina – 83-79 on Friday and 74-66 on Saturday – left them with a bitter taste in their mouths.

The Cougars, a perennial powerhouse currently ranked No. 5 nationally, were certainly favoured. But the youthful Cascades built double-digit leads both nights, including a 12-point edge at halftime on Friday, only to watch the veteran Regina squad (15-3) calmly rally to win by scores of 83-79 and 74-66.

“Honestly, it’s disappointing,” UFV coach Al Tuchscherer said. “Maybe we think too highly of ourselves, I don’t know. But we think we should be winning those games. I don’t know if it’s seasoning or what.”

Rookie centre Sarah Wierks had a big weekend for UFV, scoring a game-high 21 points on Friday and racking up 15 points and 16 rebounds on Saturday.

In many ways, the Regina program is a measuring stick for Tuchscherer’s Cascades.

“That’s a team that’s played at the national championship the last couple years, and they know what they’re doing (in late-game situations),” Tuchscherer observed.

“They have supreme confidence in their ability, and we haven’t had those experiences, I guess.”

The Cascades basketball teams hit the road this weekend to face the Winnipeg Wesmen.

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