It was a historic night for the University of the Fraser Valley basketball programs, as the Cascades men’s and women’s hoopsters both registered their first-ever victories over perennial powerhouse UBC.
The UFV women opened Friday’s doubleheader with a 65-57 triumph over the Thunderbirds, and the men matched that feat with a 77-72 win in the nightcap.
Both UBC teams had come in with matching 12-2 records, and both were ranked No. 3 in the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) national poll.
The Cascades, now in their sixth season of CIS competition, had never been able to register so much as a single win over the traditional front-runners from Vancouver. But Friday’s results backed up what’s become apparent over the course of the season – that both UFV teams are forces to be reckoned with in the Canada West conference.
“It’s a sign that times are changing, for sure,” asserted Jasper Moedt, the starting centre for the men’s squad. “It’s huge for our program to be over that block.”
CASCADES MEN DOMINATE ON THE GLASS, RALLY TO WIN
In the men’s game, UBC came out guns blazing, building a 25-9 lead in the first quarter as the No. 8-ranked Cascades struggled to cope with the T-Birds’ defensive intensity and offensive execution.
But with point guard James York providing a calming influence, UFV set about chipping away at the deficit. York scored five points in a 7-2 mini-run by the Cascades late in the first quarter, and they closed to within 36-34 at the half.
UFV seized control after the break, building a seven-point advantage, but UBC responded with an 11-2 run to reclaim the lead at 52-50.
In the fourth quarter, Cascades guard Joel Friesen took over, getting to the hoop or drawing fouls time and time again in pick-and-roll situations.
Friesen’s running mate Sam Freeman struggled with his shot for much of the evening, missing his first eight attempts from beyond the arc. But he made good on his ninth, rattling home a shot from the left wing with just over three minutes left to give his team a 66-59 lead.
Nathan Yu, UBC’s star fifth-year guard, was sublime, racking up 24 points on 8-for-15 shooting, including six treys. But with less than two minutes left, he stunningly missed a breakaway layup, which greased the skids for the Cascades as they hung on down the stretch.
“They came out playing like gangbusters, and we weren’t mentally able to deal with the pressure of the moment (in the early going),” Cascades head coach Barnaby Craddock analyzed. “Obviously once we got our legs under us and calmed down a little bit, we whittled away at it and eventually grabbed control of the game. I’m very happy with the way we calmed our nerves.”
The Cascades obliterated the T-Birds in the rebounding department, collecting 48 caroms to just 30 for UBC. Moedt racked up 17 boards on his own, including seven on the offensive end.
“It was a casual 17,” Moedt said with a grin, downplaying his performance. “There were a couple that just ended up in my hands, which was nice. It’s a team effort.”
If Moedt didn’t want to sing his own praises, Cascades coach Barnaby Craddock was more than willing to do it for him.
“What a great game,” Craddock marveled. “He goes 4-for-6 from the floor (for 10 points), and with 17 rebounds. That’s such a solid performance. Very well done.”
The Cascades saw five players score in double figures – Friesen (18), Kyle Grewal (13), Freeman (12), Jordan Blackman (12) and Moedt (10) – as they improved to 11-5 on the season. They’re third in Canada West, two games back of UBC and UVic (both at 12-3) with two games to go for each team.
CASCADES WOMEN LOCK IT DOWN ON DEFENCE
For the UFV women, a terrific defensive effort in the second half paved the way for their landmark win.
The Cascades limited the T-Birds to just nine points in both the third and fourth quarters – eyebrow-raising numbers, to be certain, as they rallied from a four-point deficit at the half.
“Defensively, we were pretty strong tonight,” noted head coach Al Tuchscherer. “They’ve got a lot of length on us, and there were some things we wanted to do, and I thought we did them pretty well.
“Nicole and Sarah Wierks came up big, Aieisha (Luyken) came up big. We really just wanted to keep them in front of us and give them one opportunity, and we did a better job of that in the second half.”
Neither team shot particularly well from the field – UFV converted at a 40.7 per cent clip, just ahead of UBC’s 38.6. But the Cascades made the most of their looks from downtown, knocking down 8-of-20 three-pointers. UBC struggled from beyond the arc, hitting just 2-of-13.
The Cascades executed tremendously well down the stretch, finishing the game on a 10-2 run to snap UBC’s eight-game winning streak.
“UBC is probably the program in the country,” Tuchscherer emphasized, reflecting on the significance of the win. “The record of success they have, and what they’ve been able to do year in and year out is something you model your program after.
“For us, to get a victory is a big deal. They’re a good squad, and more importantly, we’re playing well down the stretch.”
Luyken counted four treys among his team-high 17 points, while the sibling duo of Nicole Wierks (12 points, six rebounds) and Sarah Wierks (eight points, eight rebounds) also excelled for the Cascades. UBC’s Kris Young, Zara Huntley and Alex Vieweg tied for team-high scoring honours with 12 points apiece.
The Cascades improved to 11-5, and combined with Trinity Western’s 66-61 loss at Thompson Rivers on Friday, they clinched second place in Canada West’s Pacific Division. For the first time in program history, they’ll host a playoff series.
T-BIRDS SEEK REVENGE SATURDAY
The Cascades and T-Birds renew hostilities on Saturday evening at UFV’s Envision Athletic Centre. The women’s game tips off at 5 p.m., followed by the men at 7 p.m.