Vancouver Island University’s basketball program was perfect in PacWest play.
The VIU Mariners men’s and women’s b-ball teams both finished the regular season this past Thursday, Feb. 24, with wins against the Camosun Chargers at the Vancouver Island University gymnasium. The Mariners women (18-0) defeated the Chargers 90-62 in the early game, and the M’s men (17-0) followed with an 89-76 victory.
“It wasn’t really on the top of our goals – we’re big-picture,” said Tony Bryce, coach of the VIU women’s team. “It’s nice for the girls to be able to say that they played an undefeated PacWest season but we’re more focused on the post-season and proving ourselves when it matters.”
The VIU women know what path the playoffs will take. Next up are the Pacific Western Athletic Association championships in Abbotsford from March 3-5, then come the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association championships at VIU from March 25-27.
Bryce said the team has been through a “bizarre” season with challenges like the pandemic and roster changes, and said although the M’s haven’t been playing their best basketball, he thinks they can get there.
As far as next week’s provincials, he said his team’s goal is to push for a third-straight PacWest championship and not rely on a host berth for nationals.
“In the next week we’re going to try and sharpen up and then back off and hope that we’re as healthy as can be, locked in mentally and then trust all the time and work we’ve put in not just this year but in past years,” Bryce said.
Matt Kuzminski, coach of the Mariners men, said an undefeated season wasn’t necessarily something the team targeted, but rather a product of going into every game to win.
“It is an acknowledgement of the group of guys you have, the coaching staff and the efforts we put in to getting them ready to go and how much the team’s improved in general,” Kuzminski said.
He said finishing the regular season with a “classic” Island rivalry game was a good test for the VIU men as they will wait to find out their semifinal opponent at provincials.
“Guys are going to be asked to do their jobs, just like they were last week or the week before. They won’t be asked to do anything extraordinary and I won’t have to do anything out of the normal as a coach,” he said. “We’ve just got to do what we’re supposed to do and what we lay out in our plan for the week.”
B.C. has two berths to nationals, so the Mariners are just one playoff win away from achieving that goal.
“It’s about that [semifinal] game … and then we’ll reassess,” Kuzminski said.
In Thursday’s win against Camosun, Harriette Mackenzie led VIU with 23 points. Amber Lease and Ranika Guyton each scored 11 and Kayla Gregory had 10 points and nine rebounds. In the men’s game, Cameron Gay led the M’s with 21 points, Akoi Yuot scored 19 and Richard Henderson and Tori Odom both scored 18.
GAME ON … The PacWest championships are March 3-5, hosted by Columbia Bible College in Abbotsford. Both VIU teams are seeded No. 1 and have earned berths into the semifinals March 4.