Cascades punch playoff ticket

After a two-year absence, the University of the Fraser Valley women’s basketball team is going back to the Canada West playoffs.

Tessa Hart

Tessa Hart

After a two-year absence, the University of the Fraser Valley women’s basketball team is going back to the Canada West playoffs.

The Cascades punched their post-season ticket with a pair of weekend road wins against the Lethbridge Pronghorns.

“I’m really happy for the girls,” said head coach Al Tuchscherer, whose program went a combined 6-35 in league play over the previous two seasons.

“We’re the second-youngest team in Canada West, and for them to make such huge strides is a reflection of everything they’ve done and embraced in the past year.

“It’s been really fun to watch them grow.”

In a conversation with The News last week, Tuchscherer predicted his team would take care of business against Lethbridge. The Cascades backed up their coach’s confidence, winning 77-54 on Friday and 70-50 on Saturday.

Hot shooting from Courtney Bartel was the common denominator in the two victories. The second-year guard poured in a game-high 22 points on Friday, including a 5-for-7 performance from beyond the three-point arc. On Saturday, she went 3-for-4 from the land beyond en route to a 13-point night.

Bartel’s dead-eye shooting was particularly impressive in light of the fact she only practiced once last week due to a painful rib injury that had hampered her the previous four games.

“Courtney’s a phenomenal rhythm shooter, and when she gets it going, there’s nobody better,” Tuchscherer said.

The Cascades are currently tied with the Calgary Dinos for seventh place in Canada West at 10-12, but they have a distinct inside track in the race for the No. 7 seed. The UFV women wrap up the season with a Friday-Saturday home set against the winless Brandon Bobcats (0-22), while the Dinos face the top-ranked team in the nation, the Saskatchewan Huskies.

The Winnipeg Wesmen, currently second in Canada West at 18-4 and ranked No. 9 in Canada, would be UFV’s most likely playoff opponent.

‘PUT UP OR SHUT UP’ TIME FOR UFV MEN

After splitting their weekend set at Lethbridge, the UFV men’s hoopsters need help to make the playoffs.

Barnaby Craddock’s Cascades are tied for the eighth and final post-season slot with the Calgary Dinos at 8-14, and they’re one game back of the seventh-place Manitoba Bisons (9-13). But both teams hold the tiebreaker against UFV.

The Dinos finish up at home against the Saskatchewan Huskies, ranked No. 3 in the nation, while the Bisons hit the road to play the Regina Cougars this weekend.

While the Cascades might be tempted to do a bit of scoreboard watching, head coach Craddock said it’s important that they simply focus on what they can control – namely, sweeping Brandon at home.

“We’ll be interested to know what happens, but we feel like we need to win both games to make the playoffs,” Craddock said. “That’s going to be our goal. We know we’ve sort of dug ourselves a hole throughout the year, losing games we felt we had a chance to win earlier in the season. Now, it’s put up or shut up. We’ve got to win two.”

The Pronghorns dealt the Cascades’ playoff hopes a blow on Friday, winning 86-82. But the UFV men came with a gritty effort Saturday, earning a 90-85 triumph.

Point guard Zeon Gray had a big game in the victory, stuffing the stat sheet with 18 points, six rebounds, six assists and five steals. James Elliott (18 points), Sam Freeman (17) and Joel Friesen (15) also scored in double figures.