Friday night was a historic one 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.
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 (both from Chilliwack) 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 top 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 her 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.
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.
— The UFV women failed to complete the sweep, falling 60-58 to UBC on Saturday.
Staring at a 13-point deficit in the third quarter, the Cascades staged a stirring rally, surging ahead 56-52 after Luyken knocked down a three-pointer with 2:45 left in the fourth quarter.
But the T-Birds battled back to level the score 58-58 with 35 seconds left when centre Zara Huntley hit a pair of free throws. On the ensuing UFV possession, Nicole Wierks missed a jumper with 25 seconds remaining.
UBC came back down the floor, and Huntley hauled in an offensive rebound in the dying seconds and drew a foul on Sarah Wierks on the put-back attempt with just 0.4 seconds on the clock. She hit both shots from the charity stripe to provide the margin of victory.
“I’m not as broken up about the foul call as some people maybe are,” Cascades coach Al Tuchscherer said afterward. “We’ve got to get that rebound, you know what I mean? We pride ourselves on not giving up a lot of second chance points, and that’s what it was.”
Luyken, with 15 points, was the only player in double figures for the Cascades, who shot the ball terribly as a team – they converted just 29.9 per cent of their attempts from the field.
While Saturday’s near-miss might have left a bad taste in his mouth, Tuchscherer still viewed the weekend as a success in light of Friday’s win – the first-ever for his program over UBC.
“You knew UBC was going to come out and hit us with something after we beat them last night,” he noted. “They came out pretty strong and we got caught up in playing their game. But then I thought we got really gritty and started playing our game and gave ourselves a chance to win.
“Those are all really positive signs. If we shoot the ball a little bit better tonight, maybe we’ve got a win instead of a two-point loss.”
With the victory, UBC (13-3) clinched first place in the Pacific Division, while UFV (11-6) is now locked into the No. 2 spot. After wrapping up the regular season on Thursday at TWU, they’ll host a first-round playoff series against the No. 3 seed from the Prairie Division.