Chilliwack’s Deanna Tuchscherer poured in a game high 20 points for her University of the Fraser Valley Cascades as they took care of business in their playoff opener Friday night, beating the Thompson Rivers WolfPack 76-54.
The match was of the do-or-die, single-elimination variety.
The No. 5-seeded Cascades were in control for much of the game, yet every time they appeared poised to pull away once and for all, the No. 12 WolfPack dug deep to claw their way back into it. Ultimately, an 18-0 run in the fourth quarter gave the hosts the breathing room they needed.
With the victory, the Cascades advance to a quarterfinal/semifinal quadrant hosted by the Calgary Dinos this week. They’ll play the No. 4 seed Alberta Pandas (16-4) in the quarters, with the winner moving on to face the Calgary-UNBC winner in the semis.
“Thompson Rivers, full credit to them,” Cascades head coach Al Tuchscherer said afterward. “Whenever we looked like we were about to pull away, that just fueled them. They’d get a little tougher, a little grittier, and they made us earn the W here tonight.
The offence was slow to materialize for both teams in the first quarter, which ended with UFV up 18-11. The Cascades were able to find more traction in the second, pushing the lead to double digits, and rookie point guard Nikki Cabuco’s incredible three-pointer from the halfcourt logo as time expired gave her team a 40-24 lead heading into halftime. TRU senior Leilani Carney carried her team in the first half, pouring in 13 points on 6-of-11 shooting from the field.
UFV scored five straight points to open the third quarter – highlighted by a pair of Amanda Thompson buckets – to push the lead to 21, but the WolfPack hung tough behind eight points from Jordon Haggerty in the frame and got back to within 12.
In the fourth, the Cascades led 58-40 after a pair of Victoria Jacobse free throws, only to watch TRU reel off 11 straight points – including a pair of triples from Emma Piggin and one from Brooklyn Golt – to cut the deficit to 58-51 with six-plus minutes left in regulation.
UFV found an answer, though, as treys from Cabuco and Maddy Gobeil in quick succession got the lead back to 13, and they stepped on the gas from there. The WolfPack went nearly six minutes without a point, before Piggin hit a free throw and a late jumper in the final 30 seconds with the outcome already decided.
“First of all, we played a really great team with a great coaching staff. We didn’t open the game well. I expected the pressure would be more on the side of Fraser Valley, but we started the game by missing five or six easy layups. You cannot do that … you’re fighting the whole time and expending energy (to get back into it). The moments we managed to bring the game (close), we didn’t have any more (energy).”