In the aftermath of two decisive weekend wins over the UNBC Timberwolves, Al Tuchscherer wasn’t ready to declare his team completely cured of its perplexing midseason identity crisis.
But the head coach of the University of the Fraser Valley women’s basketball team saw enough positive signs to indicate they’re on the right track.
“I thought we took some good steps to regain where we need to be,” said Tuchscherer, whose team won 67-42 on Friday and 82-47 on Saturday at the Envision Athletic Centre. “That’s what this weekend was about. It was ourselves against ourselves, more than anything.
“There were times that I wasn’t happy with, but I think it’s something where we can take that and continue to grow.”
Tuchscherer had said he barely recognized his team the previous weekend, when they lost a pair of road games to the Calgary Dinos and the Lethbridge Pronghorns.
The defeats represented a sharp change in fortune for the Cascades, who had been ranked No. 1 in the nation but fell to No. 4 in the latest edition of the CIS top-10 poll on Tuesday.
Taking on the Timberwolves, a first-year Canada West program from Prince George, UFV struggled mightily on offence in the first half on Friday – they held a rather slim 23-18 lead at halftime.
But they sorted things out after the break, and cruised to victory while forcing 37 T-Wolves’ turnovers and limiting the visitors to 31.8 per cent shooting. Sarah Wierks (15 points, nine rebounds), Aieisha Luyken (14 points, five assists) and Nicole Wierks (10 points, eight steals, six rebounds, five assists) led the way for UFV, while Sarah Robin, with 12 points, was the lone UNBC player in double figures.
On Saturday, Luyken and Courtney Bartel spearheaded a three-point binge for the Cascades. Luyken went 7-for-13 from beyond the arc to account for all of her game-high 21 points, while Bartel knocked down 4-of-5 treys en route to 16 points.
Tuchscherer was particularly pleased to see Bartel heat up. She’d gone scoreless vs. Lethbridge the previous weekend, shooting 0-for-7 from the field in 22 minutes.
“She hasn’t really had her stroke going in the second half (of the season), so it was really good to see that,” noted Tuchscherer, whose team leads the Pacific Division at 13-3. “And Aieisha’s just continuing to do what she’s been doing. She’s knocking down shots, and she’s tough.”
‘WARRIOR’ FREEMAN BATTLES THROUGH PAIN
Watching Sam Freeman light up UNBC, it was hard to imagine that just hours before the weekend series tipped off, he’d been seriously concerned he wouldn’t be able to play at all.
Freeman woke up Friday morning with searing pain in his chest. It was a pain he’d felt before – a couple of his ribs sometimes become displaced, and get stuck under his sternum.
But after a trip to the chiropractor’s office to pop the ribs back into place, Freeman suited up, and the T-Wolves had no answer for him. The fifth-year shooting guard counted five three-pointers among his game-high 27 points in Friday’s 85-65 win, and he poured in 28 points in an 88-70 triumph on Saturday.
“It’s ridiculous,” Freeman said, reflecting on his rib injury. “It’s only happened twice to me in my life before, but it’s really painful. I couldn’t move in the morning.
“It’s harder to breathe, and it’s really uncomfortable on your diaphragm. It feels like an out-of-place rib the whole time. You just have to get used to it, I guess.”
Freeman’s presence was essential for a Cascades squad which had been slumping in the absence of star power forward Kyle Grewal. Grewal has yet to play in the second semester due to a staph infection in his heel/ankle, and the UFV men dropped their first four league games after Christmas, sliding down the national rankings from No. 4 to an honourable mention.
Cascades coach Adam Friesen said Grewal is week-to-week with his injury, and is expected to be 100 per cent in two to three weeks. As for Freeman’s performance, the UFV bench boss termed it “incredible.”
“He was in pain, but he’s a warrior, and he knew how much we needed these games,” Friesen said. “He battled through, and I can’t say enough good things about him.”
Nathan Kendall and Kevon Parchment also had big weekends for the Cascades. Kendall (pictured above) finished just shy of a triple double on Friday, racking up 19 points, nine rebounds and eight assists, and he scored 17 on Saturday. Parchment racked up 24 points and nine rebounds on Friday and chipped in with 13 points and seven boards in the weekend finale.
The UFV men improved to 9-7, solidifying their grip on third place in the Pacific Division with six games left in the regular season.
“Getting these two wins is big,” Freeman noted. “We’re up against the wall for playoffs, and this is what we needed.”
HOOPSTERS HIT THE ROAD
The UFV basketball teams are on the road this weekend to face the UBC-Okanagan Heat on Friday and Saturday.