To view a slideshow of photos from Friday's games, please click here.
Playing to a packed gym, the VIU Mariners came up with a pair of crowd-pleasing performances.
Vancouver Island University's men's and women's basketball teams swept their home openers against the Camosun Chargers on Friday night at the VIU gym. The M's women won 58-45 and the M's men held on for an 83-78 victory.
Friday's game was the first test of the Pacific Western Athletic Association regular season for new Mariners men's coach Matt Kuzminski.
"It feels good," he said after the win. "I would have liked it to be a bit more of a decisive win, but a win's a win; we'll take it."
The game ended up being closer than it looked like it was going to be, as the home team led by as much as 18 points in the third quarter. The score was close at halftime, but the Mariners found great success with the fast break in the third quarter.
"We start smaller guys; we do like to fast break a lot, but you've got to get stops to fast break," said Kuzminski. "It slowed down at the end because they were scoring on us all the time."
Camosun's offence switched almost entirely to long-range jumpers and their shooting accuracy got them right back in it, but VIU did enough to hold off the charge.
"At the end there we were able to hit free throws and not turn the ball over," said Evan Verdel, VIU guard. "We were able to pull it out."
Brandon Jones, also a VIU guard, said his team felt like it had to buckle down and overcome to earn the win.
"It shows you later on in the season that you can battle back if you're down of if you're not playing as good," Jones said. "So I feel like the earlier we get a close game and battle [it] out, the better it will be for us in the long term."
Jones led VIU with 22 points, Tyler Olsen scored 12 and Jason McKee added 10.
The earlier women's matchup saw a more convincing victory for the home team, as the VIU ladies gained firmer control as the game wore on. Bill McWhinnie, coach of the M's women, said his team started out slow and jittery, but said the defence was solid over the final three quarters and said the offence found a way to be effective.
"We started to attack a little more," he said. "Camosun likes to press a little bit, get things kind of hectic … In the second half people like Heather McCarthy, Jocelyn Jones, Shayna Worthington started to really attack the basket and created opportunities for themselves and their teammates, which got us going."
McCarthy said the M's definitely have work to do, but said overall they're happy with the first game. She said teammates continue to learn how to play alongside one another.
"We're trying to find our balance now, with people in different positions," she said. "I think it will be good in the long run, it will just be a process."
She led the offence with 16 points and Worthington scored 15.
GAME ON … The Mariners teams travel to the mainland this coming Friday (Nov. 9) and Saturday for games against the Douglas Royals and Langara Falcons, respectively. Next home action for VIU's hoops teams isn't until Nov. 30, when the Columbia Bible College Bearcats visit … Season preview articles on VIU's basketball teams were published last week in the News Bulletin and can still be accessed at www.nanaimobulletin.com/sports.