Taking on the Manitoba Bisons in a must-win game at home, the Cascades put on a clutch performance from the opening tip and rolled to an 80-56 victory.
That wasn’t the final piece of their playoff puzzle, however. The Cascades also needed the Bobcats to defeat the Thompson Rivers WolfPack on the road in Kamloops, and Brandon obliged, clawing out an 81-73 triumph.
Those results left the Cascades and WolfPack with matching 8-12 records, tied for the 12th and final conference playoff berth. But UFV will advance to the post-season for an eighth consecutive year by virtue of their 2-0 head-to-head record vs. TRU.
Saturday marked the final home game for Cascades graduating players Shayna Litman and Sara Simovic, and Litman said it was a memorable last dance at the Envision Financial Athletic Centre.
“Honestly, it was crazy,” she said. “But we just felt so relaxed coming into this game. We just wanted to play and have fun regardless of what the outcome was going to be. If we did lose, we wanted to know we played hard and gave it our all. And if we won, same thing – we wanted to end the season on a positive note. But knowing that Brandon put up their third win against TRU at this moment was amazing. Best feeling.”
The Cascades blitzed the Bisons in the first quarter, building a 25-11 lead with Kate Head providing an offensive spark. The sophomore guard, who had missed Friday’s game due to injury, poured in eight points in the frame including a pair of three-pointers.
UFV pushed their advantage to as many as 19 points in the second, and led 45-28 at the break. They cruised home from there, never allowing the Bisons within shouting distance.
“The girls just went out and played tonight,” Cascades head coach Al Tuchscherer said. “They were aggressive offensively, and they were a lot more active at the defensive end of the floor. Manitoba didn’t get a lot of clean looks early, and it resulted in us turning some of that stuff into offence at the other end. It was a really good start for us, and it was a team effort. We distributed our scoring a little more tonight, and had some people step up defensively.”
Taylor Claggett had a record-breaking night for the Cascades, racking up 27 points, 13 rebounds and four assists. Most notably, she went 15-for-19 at the charity stripe, setting a new Canada West record for free throw attempts (19) and tying the all-time mark for makes (15) in a single game.
The previous record for free throw attempts (18) had been co-held by Claggett’s former UFV teammate Kayli Sartori (Nov. 5, 2016 vs. Saskatchewan) and Kelsey Lund of the Calgary Dinos (Feb. 11, 2016 vs. Regina).
The win came off a crushing 79-74 overtime loss to the Bisons on Friday.
Litman led the way on Friday with 32 points and 10 boards, while Simovic added 23 points.
The women now travel to Victoria for the Canada West play-in single elimination first-round playoff game against the Vikes. That game occurs at 7 p.m.
A Cascades win in that game would match them up against the top-ranked Regina Cougars next week.
For the men, Saturday was the end of the line.
The club was eliminated from playoff contention last week, and finished off the season with a pair of losses to the Bisons on Friday and Saturday.
Friday’s game saw the Cascades post their lowest offensive output of the season, falling 67-46. UFV shot just 20 per cent in the loss, and managed just 16 points in the first half.
Mark Johnson, Sukhman Sandhu and Parmvir Bains all scored 10 points apiece to lead the team.
The team’s struggles continued on Saturday, as the Bisons led for the majority of the game and posted an 82-66 win.
Johnson again led the team with 16 points and seven rebounds.
The Cascades finished the season with a record of five wins and 15 losses, including seven consecutive defeats to conclude the season. Men’s team head coach Adam Friesen said he hopes his young team can develop from this season.
“I think we came a long way from the beginning of the year,” he said. “We knew what this season was going to be about – gaining experience and learning the league for almost our entire team. Now our quest to take these experiences and grow in them will begin in the next couple weeks.”