Actions spoke even louder than words for Jasper Moedt and the University of the Fraser Valley men’s basketball team on Saturday evening.
Earlier in the week, in an interview with The News, Moedt spoke in frank terms about the confidence he had in his Cascades heading into a high-profile clash with the Trinity Western Spartans at the Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre.
Moedt’s message, in a nutshell: We’re bigger, we’re deeper, we’re more talented. We’ll win.
That they did – the Cascades put together a tough-minded, focused performance and cruised past the Spartans 88-72.
In the aftermath, Moedt admitted he caught flak from UFV bench boss Barnaby Craddock for his comments – Craddock preferring that his players not provide so-called bulletin board material to further stoke their opponents’ competitive fire.
The way Moedt saw it, he was simply expressing his deep belief in his team.
“I realized when I read it in the paper that maybe it came off as a little confident,” explained the 6’7″ centre, who posted 10 points, seven rebounds and one block in the victory. “But it’s just that I believe in us. That’s very important for someone to speak out about.
“It wasn’t so much that I was talking down on them (the Spartans), but I have a lot of faith in our team and what we’re doing at UFV.”
The foundation for Saturday’s win was defence. The Spartans came in riding a six-game winning streak, having eclipsed the 100-point plateau four times during that span. But the Cascades locked it down in the first quarter, limiting TWU to just seven points while registering 19 themselves.
“That set the tempo for us,” Craddock noted. “I thought it was a pretty solid defensive effort from our group.”
The Cascades expanded lead as high as 17 points early in the second quarter, and had a lot of success on the offensive end pounding the ball inside with Moedt and Kyle Grewal.
The Spartans mustered a rally in the third quarter to trim the deficit to seven points (59-52), but UFV stayed calm and pushed the lead back up to 19 midway through the fourth quarter en route to the victory.
In the process, the Cascades (10-5) put some distance between themselves and TWU (8-7) in the race for third place in Canada West’s Pacific Division.
The Spartans, who were missing top scorer Kyle Coston due to a sprained ankle, got 21 points from Calvin Westbrook in the loss. Point guard Tristan Smith, an ex-Cascade, was the only other TWU player in double figures with 12 points. Sean Peter, the Spartans’ second-leading scorer, was held to seven points, less than half his season average.
Cascades guard Joel Friesen had a big night. In addition to guarding Peter for much of the evening, he racked up a game-high 24 points and eight rebounds, shooting 5-for-10 from the field and a perfect 13-for-13 from the foul line. Grewal registered 17 very efficient points on 7-of-11 shooting from the field, while Sam Freeman (13 points) and Sheldon Bjorgaard (11) also chipped in.
Craddock noted that at this time last year, Grewal and Moedt were on the sidelines nursing torn knee ligaments. Their presence was the difference on this night, as the Cascades’ ability to get the ball inside kept the Spartans in foul trouble, leading to UFV shooting nearly three times as many free throws (37-13) as did the Spartans. The Cascades also had a 39-29 edge in the rebounding department.
“It’s a tough match-up for other teams, and we’re going to keep trying to play inside-out,” Craddock said.
SPARTANS WOMEN RALLY TO WIN
In the early game, the UFV women’s hoopsters led by as many as 13 points in the second quarter, but Trinity Western rallied for a 71-59 victory.
The Cascades were moving the ball sharply in the early going and had a lot of success attacking the taller Spartans off the dribble, as they built a 28-15 lead.
But it was all TWU from there. They drew to within 35-33 at halftime when MEI grad Janelle Traber knocked down a three-pointer to beat the buzzer. Then, after edging ahead in the third quarter, they ended the frame on an 11-2 run to take control.
Afterward, Cascades head coach Al Tuchscherer expressed disappointment that the ball movement that powered his team’s early success evaporated.
“We got really selfish with the ball,” he analyzed. “We started to go one-on-one, taking a lot of shots that aren’t going to be good shots for us.
“We had an opportunity to put the game away (in the second quarter), and we really just got into ourselves, which is really disappointing to see from our squad.”
Knocking off a nationally ranked team in the No. 10 Cascades marks another step in the rejuvenation of the Spartans women’s basketball program. Last season, TWU went 3-21 in league play, but this year they’re 8-7, closing the gap on UFV (10-5) for second place in the Pacific.
“UFV is a great team – they’ve been doing great things with their program, they’ve been winning big games against tough teams,” Spartans head coach Cheryl Jean-Paul noted. “So for us to take this game is huge for our program.”
The Cascades won the rebounding battle in the first quarter, but the Spartans’ towering front line of Laurelle Weigl (6’4″), Tiffany Olsen (6’2″) and Holly Strom (5’11”) seemed to wear them down as the game wore on.
“There aren’t a lot of teams that rebound as well as they (the Cascades) do in the country, and I think that showed in the first quarter,” Jean-Paul said. “But I think in terms of being able to sustain that over 40 minutes, the depth of our bench really was a factor.
“Most of the good teams we’ve played against have six or seven players that come onto the floor and contribute, whereas we have seven, eight, nine, 10 girls that can come on and do their part.”
Weigl paced the Spartans with 18 points and 10 rebounds, while Emily Knauff (16 points) and Olsen (11) also hit double figures. UFV’s Aieisha Luyken and Kayli Sartori tied for team-high scoring honours with 11 points, while Sarah Wierks had nine points and nine rebounds.
SOMETHING TO BUILD ON
Last summer when David Kent, UFV’s sports information and marketing co-ordinator, announced plans for the basketball showcase vs. Trinity at the AESC, he mused aloud about one day breaking the Canada West attendance record at the 7,000-seat venue.
That didn’t come close to happening in the first incarnation of the event – Saturday’s paid attendance was 649.
But considering UFV averages around 200 fans per game for regular home dates at the Envision Athletic Centre, and in light of the fact this event is still in its infancy, Kent considered it a solid first step.
The AESC sees potential, as well – general manager Jason Blumenfeld confirmed that UFV has been invited back to run the event again in 2013.
“We’ll expand it for next year, and we’ll make this an annual event,” Blumenfeld said. “Eventually, we’d like to make it something where the university makes some money on it.”
Saturday’s event was modeled after the Capital Hoops Classic, an annual game in Ottawa between the Carleton Ravens and the Ottawa Gee Gees men’s basketball teams at Scotiabank Place, the home of the NHL’s Ottawa Senators. Kent used to work in the Carleton athletic department, and played a key role in establishing that event, which draws in the neighbourhood of 10,000 fans each year.
To boost attendance at the AESC showcase next year, Kent said he intends to lower the ticket price from $15, and seek sponsorship from a bus company to transport students from TWU as well UFV campuses in Chilliwack and Mission.
“We do need a larger crowd in the future, sure,” he said. “But I’m very pleased and very happy. We needed to get to the next level with the brand.
“It was a great start, and we’ll go from here,” he added. “I’m as hungry on the marketing side as the athletes are to win a CIS championship.”