Mathematically speaking, Saturday’s road game against the Winnipeg Wesmen wasn’t necessarily a must-win for the University of the Fraser Valley men’s basketball team.
But in practical terms, it was a game the Cascades simply had to have. Just 24 hours earlier, the last-place Wesmen had dealt UFV an 88-73 defeat to relegate the Cascades to ninth place in Canada West. Only the top eight teams make the playoffs.
While UFV (7-13) remained in ninth in the wake of Saturday’s 75-68 triumph – eight-place Calgary (8-12) swept two games against seventh-place Manitoba (9-11) on the weekend – the clutch victory means the Cascades’ playoff goal is much more realistic.
“It definitely was a must-win,” Cascades coach Barnaby Craddock acknowledged. “If we couldn’t get the W on Saturday, I just didn’t know if we’d be playing good enough basketball (to make the playoffs).”
UFV guard Joel Friesen came through in a big way in the win, pouring in 24 points on 8-for-11 shooting, including a trio of three-pointers. Zeon Gray (18 points) and Sam Freeman (14) also hit double figures.
The Cascades wrap up the regular season on the road at Lethbridge (Feb. 11-12) and at home against Brandon (Feb. 18-19). Both teams are below UFV in the standings. Manitoba and Calgary, the teams the Cascades are chasing, finish the schedule against higher-ranked foes.
“Basically, it’s playoff time for us,” noted Craddock, who figures his team will need at least three wins in the final four games to sneak into the post-season.
“We’ve definitely lost a few games throughout the year we think we could have won, but the door is still open for us. We have to now earn our way in.”
If the UFV women’s basketball team is looking for a theme song, “Takin’ Care of Business” by Bachman-Turner Overdrive would be a natural fit.
Like the Cascades men’s hoopsters, the UFV women find themselves in ninth place with four games to go. But at 8-12, Al Tuchscherer’s squad has firm control of its playoff destiny.
The Cascades are currently trailing Thompson Rivers University (9-13) for the final Canada West post-season berth, but they have two games in hand on the WolfPack. Given that they’re finishing up against lowly Lethbridge (4-16) and Brandon (0-20), UFV also stands a reasonable chance of overhauling seventh-place Calgary (10-10).
Tuchscherer is usually an understated fellow, but the Cascades coach wasn’t afraid to declare he still likes his team’s playoff chances following a pair of weekend losses to a very good Winnipeg squad.
“We’re going to take care of business – we’ll be there,” Tuchscherer promised. “If we do what we’ve been doing the past month, and play like we’ve been playing, we’re going to be fine. And we’re going to be scary when we get into the playoffs.”
Winnipeg, ranked ninth in the nation, got a first-hand glimpse at how scary the youthful Cascades can be when they’re clicking on all cylinders. UFV pushed Winnipeg to overtime in Friday’s opener, ultimately dropping a 79-70 decision. Nicole Wierks (15 points), Alyssa Gaukel (13), Aieisha Luyken (12) and Tessa Klassen (11) each scored in double figures in UFV’s balanced attack.
On Saturday, Winnipeg shot the lights out, hitting a sizzling 12 of 22 attempts from beyond the three-point line in a dominant 75-47 win. Amy Ogidan racked up 24 points for Winnipeg, while Wierks, with 10 points, was the lone Cascade to score in double digits.