UFV's Shayna Litman drives to the hoop during last weekend's CIS basketball action at the Envision Athletic Centre in Abbotsford.

Cascades in dogfight for first place

The University of the Fraser Valley women's basketball team is in a three-way tie for first in the PACWest Pacific division.

Dan Kinvig,

Black Press

The University of the Fraser Valley women’s basketball team took on Regina last Friday in a marquee match-up – the Cougars came in ranked No. 4 in the nation, while the Cascades were No. 7.

The game lived up to its lofty billing, with Regina eking out a dramatic 64-62 win.

UFV trailed by 10 points in the second quarter, but battled back to take the lead in the third, and they led 60-58 on Aieisha Luyken’s layup with less than two minutes remaining in regulation.

The Cougars, though, responded with a Jennilea Coppola layup and a Katie Polischuk three-pointer to surge ahead 63-60. Kayli Sartori of the Cascades replied with a driving layup to make it 63-62, but Regina was still in the driver’s seat, in possession of the ball with 34 seconds left.

Sartori, though, forced a turnover, giving the ball back to UFV with 23.1 seconds remaining.

The Cougars had two fouls to give and used them effectively to get the clock down to 8.4 seconds, and on the ensuing inbounds play, Luyken’s pass went off Nataliia Gavryliuk’s arm and rolled into the backcourt for a violation, giving the ball back to the Cougars.

Regina star Nicole Clarke hit one of two free throws with 3.2 seconds left, and Sartori wasn’t able to get a desperation shot from halfcourt off before the buzzer sounded.

Afterward, Cascades coach Al Tuchscherer took responsibility for the late turnover which prevented his team from taking a potential game-winning shot.

“We were just a little bit disorganized down the stretch there,” he said. “We had the play we wanted to run, but the first option wasn’t there, and we need to go to option B. . . . That’s me. We haven’t practiced that enough.”

That said, Tuchscherer was pleased with his team’s performance. They’ve struggled with consistency this season, but were able to push the last year’s CIS silver medalists to the limit.

“I’m proud of the effort,” he said. “The girls were excited to play, and sometimes when you lose a game, it’s still a bit of a win. It’s something we can build on.”

Sartori scored 19 points on a variety of gritty drives to the hoop, while Gavryliuk (14 points) and Luyken (10 points, eight assists) also excelled vs. Regina.

The UFV women bounced back the next night with a 68-52 win over Brandon, behind big games from Sarah Wierks (12 points, 14 rebounds), Luyken (14 points) and Courtney Bartel (12 points, 10 rebounds).

The weekend results left them in a three-way tie for first in the Pacific Division with UBC and UVic. All three teams are 13-5 with four games remaining, but the Cascades are in the driver’s seat in the race for the top seed, as they hold the tiebreakers vs. both teams.

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