VIU basketball teams wind up with silver

Nanaimo's VIU Mariners men’s and women’s hoops teams both lost to the UNBC Timberwolves teams in the PacWest gold-medal games Saturday.

Vancouver Island University’s basketball teams returned from provincials with matching silver medals.

The VIU Mariners men’s and women’s hoops teams both lost to the University of Northern B.C. Timberwolves teams in the Pacific Western Athletic Association gold-medal games Saturday in North Vancouver.

The men were defeated 69-61.

“They just had a couple guys step up and make some plays and we didn’t make an open shot,” said Tony Bryce, coach of the Mariner men. “We really struggled to get into any sort of a flow offensively, as did they … Neither team, in all honesty, was able to execute. Both teams were so good defensively.”

The M’s started the game down 13-2, forcing them to play catch-up the rest of the night.

“The pressure really starts to build,” said Bryce. “But we wore it away. It wasn’t an effort thing.”

Greg Gillies was selected as VIU’s player of the game.

The M’s earned the chance to play for gold on the strength of a 67-57 win over the Capilano Blues on Friday. Patrick McCarthy had 20 points and 12 rebounds in that game and Jacob Thom had 18 points, nine rebounds and eight assists. Both those graduating veterans were later chosen as tournament all-stars.

B.C. doesn’t get a wild-card berth in nationals this year, so the season is over, and it’s the end of college basketball for McCarthy, Thom and Bryce.

“It’s disappointing,” said the coach. “I would have loved to have finished my career with these guys [at nationals] out in Nova Scotia for a week, but it wasn’t meant to be. So I’ll just have to cherish the times I had with them.”

VIU’s women’s team also found itself in a pressure-packed final, as this group of M’s had never played for provincial gold. They lost to UNBC 62-53.

“It was our first final and the emotion and the pressure, it got to them,” said Bill McWhinnie, the team’s coach.

“UNBC played very well and we struggled. We got caught up in the moment and we just struggled to score on Saturday.”

Brittany Knievel had 20 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists in the final and was named player of the game and tournament MVP. It was her last time suiting up for the M’s.

She also led the M’s in Friday’s semifinal, a 59-54 overtime win against the Capilano Blues. Knievel had 17 points and nine boards in that one, with Shayna Worthington and Jocelyn Jones each scoring 15 points.

Worthington, a post player, hit two clutch three-pointers late in the fourth quarter.

“The semifinal showed what the girls are made of. A lot of teams could have folded, being down 19 in the first half, but the kids battled back and executed,” McWhinnie said.

Two days after the gold-medal game, McWhinnie said the loss still stings.

“But I think when they get time to digest it, they’ll realize what a great year they had and the kids that are coming back, hopefully it’s a springboard so maybe next year we’ll get to the final and we’ll get a chance to win it.”

Like the men, VIU’s women also miss out on a wild-card berth at the Canadian Colleges’ Athletic Association championships despite being highly regarded by the CCAA’s own rankings. The wild-card formula uses a points system based on a conference’s recent results at nationals.

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