Vancouver Island University’s basketball teams both put themselves in position to play for a championship.
The VIU Mariners men’s and women’s b-ball teams head to the Lower Mainland this week (Feb. 27-March 1) for Pacific Western Athletic Association provincials at Douglas College.
The VIU women (20-1) ended their season with a 70-61 loss to the Camosun Chargers on Friday in Victoria, coming up just short of an undefeated season, but they are still the favourites going into the tournament.
“Being undefeated in the season wasn’t really a goal of ours until we got down to the stretch here,” said Bill McWhinnie, coach of the M’s women. “We reached the two goals we wanted. We wanted the No. 1 seed and we were unbeaten at home.”
Shayna Worthington scored 26 points and Jocelyn Jones added 13 and those two finished first and second, respectively, in PacWest scoring this season with 19.3 and 17.1 points per game.
McWhinnie said his players put a little bit of pressure on themselves to try to finish undefeated, but the fact that it didn’t happen isn’t all bad.
“If anything, I think the loss will refocus us and put a little urgency on this week of practice, knowing that we have to give our best effort this week,” McWhinnie said.
The VIU women will play either the Capilano Blues or the Douglas Royals on Friday. Both potential opponents play man-to-man defence and play hard and physical basketball.
“I want to see us come out with a little fire and force our tempo on our opponents,” the coach said.
Meanwhile, VIU’s men (16-5) earned the No. 2 seed in their PacWest table, which also earns them a bye into Friday’s semifinals. The Mariners men take a lot of momentum into provincials having crushed the Chargers 104-65 in the season finale.
“We’re definitely peaking at the right time,” said Matt Kuzminski, coach of the M’s. “I get that sense from our guys, I get that sense from the way we’re playing.”
VIU’s men weren’t playing for an undefeated record, but there was a little something on the line in the last game as star point guard Brandon Jones was trying for the league scoring title. Jones scored 39 points on 16-for-26 shooting and will share the scoring crown (21.6 points per game) with Cartiea French-Toney of the Quest Kermodes.
“[Jones] was pretty motivated to do that. He was pretty focused to start the game and he came out attacking,” said Kuzminski. “But even though that was his goal, I thought he took good shots and he still got a lot of other guys involved.”
The coach said the bye to the semis allows his team to be focused with its preparation. It expects to play Quest but it won’t count out host Douglas.
“I think we’ll be very well prepared and we’ll be ready to play,” he said.
Those are marks of an experienced team, which the defending-national-champion Mariners certainly are.
“If we can take anything from last year it would be to not get too far ahead of yourself and really take it one day at a time,” Kuzminski said.
COURT SHORTS … The PacWest announced its year-end awards on Wednesday. Jocelyn Jones was named the PacWest Player of the Year and McWhinnie was chosen Coach of the Year. Jones and Worthington were first-team all-stars and Heather McCarthy was a second-team all-star. Brandon Jones was a first-team all-star and Jerod Dorby made the all-rookie team.