For the first time in their six-year CIS tenure, the University of the Fraser Valley men’s basketball team will have home-court advantage for the first round of the playoffs.
The Cascades, ranked No. 5 in the nation, locked up the right to host a Canada West quarter-final series by virtue of an 89-70 road win over the Trinity Western Spartans on Thursday evening at the Langley Events Centre.
UFV held a slim 39-38 lead at halftime, but broke the game open in the third quarter, out-scoring the Spartans 32-13 in the frame.
Sam Freeman led the Cascades’ balanced attack with 19 points, while Kyle Grewal (16 points), Joel Friesen (15), Mike James (11) and Jasper Moedt (10) also scored in double figures.
The Spartans were paced by Calvin Westbrook’s 15 points.
“I was very happy with the defensive effort in the third quarter,” Cascades head coach Barnaby Craddock said. “The guys set a goal at the beginning of the season, to host a playoffs, and they should be happy to have earned it.
“Now we have a couple weeks to get healthy and prepare for some very difficult playoff games.”
UFV wraps up the regular season with a 13-5 record, which leaves them in second place in the crowded Pacific Division standings, trailing UVic (13-3) and ahead of UBC (12-4). The top two teams in the division will open the playoffs at home.
But UVic and UBC finish the regular season playing each other a home-and-home series. One of those two teams will finish first in the Pacific, while the other will end up with at least five losses. The Cascades would own the tiebreaker on either team, which assures them of second place.
The UFV men will host the third-place finisher from the Prairie Division in a best-of-three series at the Envision Athletic Centre, Feb. 23-25. Lethbridge (9-9), Calgary (8-10) and Manitoba (8-10) are in the hunt for that seeding.
CASCADES WOMEN PROVE POINT VS. SPARTANS
The Cascades women’s hoopsters had already clinched home-court advantage to open the playoffs, but they still felt they had something to prove in their regular season finale against TWU.
Two weeks ago, the Spartans upset the Cascades 79-51 at the Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre. UFV, ranked No. 10 in the nation, put forth a better effort on Thursday, pulling away down the stretch for a 74-65 win.
“How we played a couple weeks ago wasn’t how we wanted to play,” noted Cascades head coach Al Tuchscherer. “I think it was important for us to come back and rebound from that game. Finishing the season strong was a big thing.”
The Spartans reeled off a 23-6 run bridging the first and second quarters to build a 13-point lead, but the Cascades responded with a 9-0 run of their own to get back into it.
TWU led 55-53 midway through the fourth quarter, but UFV finished the game on an 11-0 spurt to seal the victory.
In the process, the Cascades (12-6) dealt a huge blow to the Spartans’ post-season aspirations. At 8-10, they’re currently occupying the fourth and final playoff spot in the Pacific Division, but they need a huge amount of help from other teams to hang onto that spot.
“They were dominating the boards in the first half, but I felt we really turned the tide in the third quarter,” Tuchscherer said. “Down the stretch, our D really clamped down, which I think has become one of the trademarks of our team.”
Aieisha Luyken, with 19 points, paced the UFV attack, while Tessa Klassen (15 points) and Alexa McCarthy (12) also chipped in offensively. Spartans forward Holly Strom racked up a game-high 20 points.
Like the UFV men, the Cascades women will host the Prairie Division’s third-place team in a best-of-three series at the Envision Athletic Centre, Feb. 23-25. The Calgary Dinos, at 13-5, have the inside track on that slot.