Sports

UFV basketball: Women validate No. 1 ranking, men fall to Golden Bears in Craddock's return

UFV guard Sam Freeman is fouled by Jordan Baker of the Alberta Golden Bears during Saturday
UFV guard Sam Freeman is fouled by Jordan Baker of the Alberta Golden Bears during Saturday's game at the Envision Athletic Centre. Freeman scored a game-high 27 points, but the Bears won 91-81.
— image credit: John Morrow

A big night for basketball at the University of the Fraser Valley saw the Cascades women validate their freshly minted No. 1 national ranking, while the men's team put in a valiant effort en route to defeat.

The UFV women, who ascended to the top spot in the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) poll on Tuesday, crushed the Alberta Pandas 74-50 on Saturday to cap a two-win weekend at home. They were coming off a 71-62 triumph over the Saskatchewan Huskies on Friday.

"Last night, we spent a lot of that game trying to kick the rust off," said Cascades coach Al Tuchscherer, whose team improved to 11-1. "Nothing was really clicking.

"Tonight, it would have been really easy for us to be distracted by the officiating. It wasn't necessarily bad officiating, just different. It was just foul-foul-foul-foul, and everything was just heightened."

The Cascades ran into some adversity early in the third quarter vs. Alberta, as sophomore forward Kayli Sartori fouled out after picked up a personal foul and then a technical after reacting in disbelief.

UFV led 45-31 at that point, but rather than allow Sartori's departure to be a distraction, the Cascades used it as fuel. Aieisha Luyken and Nicole Wierks hit three-pointers on back-to-back possessions, and Celeste Dyck followed that up with an old-fashioned three-point play. Suddenly the lead was 54-34, and the rout was officially on.

Tuchscherer felt Sartori's technical was "completely unwarranted," but he was very pleased with how his team responded.

"It could have been a turning point," he said. "But I thought Aieisha just said, 'Enough is enough, let's put these guys away.'"

Luyken was clearly the best player on the floor, torturing the Pandas with her outside shooting (going 4-for-7 from downtown) and running the offence with flair. She finished with a sparkling stat line: a team-high 20 points, four assists, and zero turnovers.

Tuchscherer said Luyken probably flies under the radar in the Canada West conference due to UFV's balanced attack – no player averages as many as 15 points – but he said the fourth-year point guard is the Cascades' catalyst.

"I think she's a superstar in this league," he said. "Aieisha's really what makes things go around for our squad.

"We've been together for so long now, she knows exactly what I want to happen out there."

The Wierks sisters, Sarah (18 points) and Nicole (17 points), also chipped in offensively, while the Cascades got great contributions off the bench from the likes of Dyck and Sam Kurath.

CRADDOCK, GOLDEN BEARS RALLY TO WIN

Former UFV men's basketball bench boss Barnaby Craddock was coaching his first game in Abbotsford since departing to take the helm of the Alberta Golden Bears last June, and he found the view from the visitors' bench to be somewhat disorienting.

"I'm usually cheering when (UFV guard Sam) Freeman's shots go in," he said with a wry chuckle after his team's 91-81 win. "I didn't like it so much tonight."

Craddock and the No. 6-ranked Golden Bears caught a big break, as Kyle Grewal, UFV's star power forward, was sidelined with a sprained ankle.

In his absence, the No. 4-ranked Cascades – a smallish squad to start with – were vastly out-sized by an Alberta team which boasted the likes of 6'7" superstar swingman Jordan Baker and 6'11" centre Rob Dewar.

UFV battled, though. They raced out to an early 12-3 lead, and took a 44-35 advantage into the half thanks to some hot outside shooting.

But the Cascades faced a defensive dilemma – when they collapsed on Alberta's big men, it left the three-point line open. The Golden Bears exploited that quandary with some sharp ball movement, and pulled away by out-scoring UFV 28-11 in the fourth quarter.

"They wore us down – obviously being shorthanded really cost us inside," Cascades coach Adam Friesen noted. "But I'm very proud – we competed as hard as we could. We showed a lot of character, and for the future, that's going to be big for us. Once we get healthy, I think we'll be a better team because of this."

UFV's fifth-year guards, Freeman and James York, kept the Cascades in it. Freeman poured in a game-high 27 points, while York played a tough, efficient game and finished with 15 points, 12 assists and just one turnover. Kevon Parchment also had a big game for UFV, stuffing the stat sheet with 16 points, eight rebounds and six assists.

Kenneth Otieno (24 points, nine rebounds), Todd Bergen-Henengouwen (18 points) and Baker (17 points, nine rebounds) led the way for the Golden Bears, who improved to 10-2.

"I thought we played good basketball down the stretch," Craddock said. "They're a talented team, ranked high in the country from the beginning of the year, so it was a real tough road win to get."

The Cascades, who also lost 90-82 to Saskatchewan on Friday, fell to 7-5 on the season, but they're still tied with the Victoria Vikes for second place in the Pacific Division of Canada West.

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