VIU hoops teams hot at right time

Vancouver Island University Mariners forward Jason McKee, right, goes for a basket against Kwantlen Eagles opponent Ali Bosir during Saturday’s Pacific Western Athletic Association matchup at the VIU gym. - GREG SAKAKI/The News Bulletin
Vancouver Island University Mariners forward Jason McKee, right, goes for a basket against Kwantlen Eagles opponent Ali Bosir during Saturday’s Pacific Western Athletic Association matchup at the VIU gym.
— image credit: GREG SAKAKI/The News Bulletin

The Vancouver Island University Mariners played their best basketball yet as the buzzer sounded on the regular season.

The M's men's and women's b-ball teams trounced the opposition at the VIU gym Friday and Saturday, sweeping all four of their Pacific Western Athletic Association games by blowout scores. The men (16-5) defeated the Columbia Bible College Bearcats 101-73 on Friday, then got to triple digits again the next day in a 103-68 win over the Kwantlen Eagles. VIU's women's team (15-6) dominated CBC by a 104-33 score on Friday, then handled Kwantlen 72-38.

Saturday's win was the final game at the VIU gym for graduating player Tyler Olsen, and he rose to the occasion with a double-double of 13 points and 10 rebounds. Clayton Billett led all scorers with 23 points, Brandon Jones scored 17 points and Ryan Davidson had 15.

"Usually on Saturdays we come out kind of slow and sluggish but today we definitely came out the way we wanted to and played with intensity," said Olsen.

VIU coach Matt Kuzminski was happy with his team's rebounding – the M's had a 56-26 margin in that category – and he said his Mariners also played with energy and took care of the ball.

The M's men managed to play hard even though they entered the weekend with a first-round playoff bye already sewn up.

"We take every game as a challenge and these games were nice rehearsals for [provincials]," Kuzminski said.

On Friday it was Jones leading the Mariners with 24 points and 12 rebounds. Olsen scored 23 in that one, Billett had 18 and Jason McKee scored 16.

Olsen said it was weird walking through the doors to the VIU gym on Saturday knowing he was about to play his last game at the venue.

"I think it will really hit me when it's all said and done…" Olsen said. "[I'm] just looking forward right now and once it's all over I'll look back."

Mariners women maintain momentum

The Mariner women, meanwhile, were playing meaningful games all weekend as they secured a first-round playoff bye, themselves. Coach Bill McWhinnie said his team is playing the best basketball it's played all year.

"I thought the kids played fantastic, played with energy," he said. "And our big stars Jocelyn [Jones] and Shayna [Worthington] came out to play and led us and our role players did their jobs."

The Mariners defended well, said the coach, getting out to challenge shots and controlling the glass.

Worthington had 18 points and 13 rebounds in Saturday's regular-season finale while Jocelyn Jones scored 14 points and Heather McCarthy added 13.

The day before, Jones scored 25, Jenna Carver had 14 points and 14 rebounds, Jami Oliver had 10 points and 15 rebounds, and McCarthy and Worthington scored 16 each.

For VIU's women's b-ball team to grab the No. 2 seed in the PacWest is remarkable considering that the squad had an unexpected roster shakeup on the eve of the regular season and also survived an injury to their starting point guard Jones in the fall.

"They could have folded their tents after all the stuff we went through – losing players, injuries and illness," said McWhinnie. "And they continued to work hard. Their attitudes have been fantastic. They're a very close group, the chemistry's great and this is all their doing."

GAME ON … The PacWest championships will be held in Victoria starting Feb. 28. Look for more on provincials next week in the News Bulletin.

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