National championship rematch highlights UFV's preseason hoops tourney
Perusing the schedule for the Honda Way Tournament, UFV's second annual preseason men's basketball event, one game stands out above the rest.
The three-day, five-team tourney tips off Thursday, but it's Friday's clash between the host Cascades and the Lakehead Thunderwolves which is most intriguing.
The two teams met in the quarter-finals of the CIS national championship tourney in Halifax last spring, with the Cascades knocking off the Thunder Bay, Ont. program – which had been ranked No. 2 in Canada for much of the year – by a score of 83-71.
UFV would go on to finish just shy of the podium, falling 83-65 to the eventual champion Carleton Ravens in the semifinals before dropping a heartbreaking 89-86 decision to the St. Francis Xavier X-Men in the bronze medal game.
Nevertheless, beating Lakehead was a landmark moment for a Cascades program seeking to establish itself on the national stage.
"When we were in Halifax, not many people knew what UFV stood for or what province we were from," Cascades head coach Adam Friesen recalled with a chuckle. "Making nationals was obviously big, but getting a win, more people knew of the school after that."
The Honda Way event also features the McMaster Marauders (another strong Ontario squad which posted a 17-5 record last season), along with the UNBC Timberwolves (preparing for their first CIS campaign) and the Langara Falcons (a PacWest collegiate program).
The Cascades, for their part, are a new-look outfit. Former bench boss Barnaby Craddock departed for the University of Alberta in the off-season, and Friesen, his former assistant, stepped into the top job.
UFV's preseason, to this point, has been about integrating new players into the lineup, and transitioning returnees into different roles.
The Cascades split a pair of exhibition games at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops last weekend, falling 71-63 to Montana State-Northern (NAIA) and beating York University (CIS) 98-82.
"I'm really happy with where we are, but at the same point, every game is kind of a mystery as to how we're going to play," Friesen analyzed. "We have a lot of new faces, and players taking on different roles. We just have to grow through all those situations as a team."
Both of the Cascades' elite fifth-year players – power forward Kyle Grewal and shooting guard Sam Freeman – have missed much of the preseason.
Grewal was sidelined for the better part of two months with a groin injury, but he returned last weekend and racked up 23 points vs. York.
Freeman fractured a bone in his hand against the NCAA's Cal State Northridge Matadors in late August. He recently returned to the lineup, only to hyperextend his knee against Montana State-Northern. It's possible he'll be available to play this week, but if not, Friesen is optimistic he'll be ready for UFV's regular season opener, Nov. 2-3 at Mount Royal University.
In the meantime, perimeter players Jordan Blackman and Kevon Parchment have picked up the slack. Blackman, a sophomore out of Abbotsford's Yale Secondary, scored a team-high 26 points against York, while Parchment, a Toronto native who transferred from Alberta's Lakeland College, stuffed the stat sheet with 22 points, seven rebounds and five assists.
"That's something we were expecting – we knew they had the ability," Friesen said. "Jordan, as a returner, has been a really great guy to coach. He's really stepping up his game."
The Cascades' Honda Way schedule includes game against Langara on Thursday (8 p.m.), Lakehead on Friday (6 p.m.) and McMaster on Saturday (7 p.m.). All games are at UFV's Envision Athletic Centre. For a full tournament schedule, visit abbynews.com.
6 p.m. – Lakehead vs. UNBC
8 p.m. – Langara vs. UFV
4 p.m. – Cascades tailgate barbecue
6 p.m. – UFV vs. Lakehead
8 p.m. – UNBC vs. McMaster
7 p.m. – UFV vs. McMaster