Cascades dominate on the glass, beat Huskies in playoff opener

UFV forward Nicole Wierks was the catalyst for her team as they fended off the Saskatchewan Huskies in Game 1 of their best-of-three series. - John Morrow
UFV forward Nicole Wierks was the catalyst for her team as they fended off the Saskatchewan Huskies in Game 1 of their best-of-three series.
— image credit: John Morrow

The offence was slow to materialize for the University of the Fraser Valley women's basketball team in their playoff opener on Thursday.

But who needs to make shots when you're grabbing the vast majority of the rebounds?

The Cascades rode their prowess on the boards – particularly at the offensive end – to a 65-58 victory over the Saskatchewan Huskies in Game 1 of their best-of-three series at the Envision Athletic Centre.

UFV crushed the Huskies 43-28 in the rebounding department, including 20 caroms collected off the offensive glass – a remarkable number considering Saskatchewan only managed 22 defensive rebounds.

The Huskies had been the better rebounding team during the regular season, finishing second in Canada West in rebounding margin at +8.1 per game (UFV was fifth at +5.5). But the Cascades' decisive dominance in that department allowed them to overcome a poor shooting night, during which they hit just 31.4 per cent of their shots from the field.

"We had a lot of shots in the first quarter, but we missed a lot of easy ones," UFV coach Al Tuchscherer noted, alluding to a string of bricked layups in the early going. "But I said to the girls, 'That's fine.' We got a lot of boards, and defensively we were pretty strong, and we were getting the shots we wanted to get. Maybe it was a little bit of nerves, maybe a little bit of over-excitement (with the missed shots).

"Second quarter, I thought we turned things around. The D continued for most of the game, and we started to hit some shots in the second and third quarters."

The Cascades led 29-21 at halftime and stretched the lead to 14 early in the third quarter, but the Huskies hung around.

Even late in the fourth quarter, when UFV had a 60-52 lead in the final minute, Saskatchewan found a way to make them sweat. Three-pointers by Kelsey Trulsrud and Kabree Howard (on a sky-scraping bank shot from well outside the arc) trimmed the Cascades' advantage to 62-58 with 23.4 seconds left.

But the UFV women, ranked No. 4 in the nation, sealed the victory in clinical fashion.

Game 2 goes Friday night at the EAC at 7 p.m., and Game 3 (if necessary) would be Saturday at 7 p.m.

Nicole Wierks was the catalyst for the Cascades on Thursday. The do-everything forward was a force at the defensive end, and came up with a series of clutch plays late in the fourth quarter to give UFV some breathing room.

"That's Nicole, right?" Tuchscherer said of Wierks, who finished with 13 points, five rebounds, two steals and two assists. "She's a superstar in this league, but a pretty quiet one. She can fill a stat sheet, she can rebound, and I think she's the best defender in Canada West. She just does everything for us."

Three Cascades – Aieisha Luyken (16 points), Kayli Sartori (15) and Nicole Wierks (13) – scored in double figures in the win. Sarah Wierks, Nicole's younger sister, had a rough shooting night, going 2-for-12 for six points, but she racked up an eye-popping 19 rebounds, including nine of the offensive variety.

Dalyce Emmerson, the Huskies' 6'3" sophomore centre, was her team's chief weapon, notching 14 points, seven rebounds, three blocks and three steals.

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