In the waning seconds of the first-ever Canada West playoff basketball game hosted at the University of the Fraser Valley, Cascades women’s coach Al Tuchscherer took a glance at the scoreboard.
He nearly did a double take.
His Cascades were putting the finishing touches on a 63-43 win over the Calgary Dinos, claiming a 1-0 lead in their best-of-three first-round series.
The number that jumped off the scoreboard for Tuchscherer was the 43 points the Dinos had mustered. Calgary boasted the second-most prolific offence in the conference during the regular season, scoring 74.8 points per game. The Cascades had held them to more than 30 points below their average on Thursday, including just seven points in each of the third and fourth quarters.
“We’ve held teams to under ten points in a quarter a few times this year,” noted Tuchscherer, whose team was the second-best in Canada West defensively this season. “But to do it in the playoffs against a high-octane offence, it’s obviously pretty good.
“It was one of those games where you just let your players go and play. I kind of had a calm before the game, knowing our defence was tough, and that it would hold us in.”
The Dinos started strong, building a 19-12 lead after the first quarter, and they led 29-22 with under three minutes remaining in the second quarter.
But the Cascades locked it down on defence at that point. They ended the half on a 10-0 run, and that outburst grew into a 38-7 run bridging the second, third and fourth quarters.
How well were the Cascades rolling? Late in the third quarter, the normally stoic Tuchscherer gave a big Tiger Woods-style fist pump after UFV centre Sarah Wierks tore down an offensive rebound in a crowd, then hit a mid-range jumper on the ensuing possession to push the UFV lead to double digits for the first time.
“It’s a playoff game, and that was a big shot,” Tuchscherer said with a chuckle and a shrug afterward. “It kind of sealed the game in a way. I was happy with how we were playing.”
UFV’s backcourt duo of Tessa Klassen and Aieisha Luyken spearheaded the offence with 13 and 12 points, respectively, while Wierks had 10 points and six rebounds.
“When our team gears down on D, everything seems to flow from there,” Wierks analyzed. “And that’s what we did. When we picked up our defence in the second quarter, our offence came.”
Dinos point guard Jenna Kaye scored a game-high 16 points, but only two came after halftime. Post player Jessica Franz, with 14, was the only other Calgary player to score more than five points, as Dinos starters Tamara Jarrett and Megan Lang were held scoreless.
“I just think we have a lot of very key defensive players,” Tuchscherer said, analyzing his team’s defensive prowess. “Aieisha Luyken and Nicole Wierks are, I think, as good as anyone in Canada defensively, and they lead us. And then you’ve got Sarah cleaning up the boards, and Courtney Bartel has a lot of speed. You can put Cel (Celeste Dyck) in the game, and she’s tough on the ball.
“Defence is something we put a lot of emphasis on, and I think we just have the players who understand that and embrace that.”
Among the statistical anomalies, Dinos guard Lang went 0-for-6 from beyond the arc, after leading Canada West in three-point percentage at .515 during the regular season. That’s one reason Tuchscherer was quick to note he expects the Dinos to be a different team in Friday’s Game 2 (6 p.m., Envision Athletic Centre). Game 3, if necessary, runs at 5 p.m. Saturday.
“We need to prepare for them to be a little more efficient offensively tomorrow, I think,” Tuchscherer said.