Lakeland Rustlers player Leena Garda defends against VIU Mariners player Harriette Mackenzie during Friday’s CCAA quarterfinal game at the Vancouver Island University gym. (Greg Sakaki/News Bulletin)

Lakeland Rustlers player Leena Garda defends against VIU Mariners player Harriette Mackenzie during Friday’s CCAA quarterfinal game at the Vancouver Island University gym. (Greg Sakaki/News Bulletin)

VIU Mariners come back to win first game at nationals

Vancouver Island University defeats Lakeland 76-71 in CCAA quarterfinals Friday

The VIU Mariners pulled off quite the comeback to be able to advance at college basketball nationals.

Vancouver Island University defeated the top-seeded Lakeland Rustlers by a 76-71 score Friday, March 25, to advance to the semifinals at the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association championships in Nanaimo.

VIU trailed by nine points at halftime and by as many as 15 points in the third quarter before they managed to turn the game around and take the lead before the start of the fourth quarter.

“We just kept trusting each other, I think that was our big thing,” said Harriette Mackenzie, chosen as VIU’s player of the game. “Even when we were down, we trusted the work we’d put in and I thought we stayed really calm.”

The Mariners had some nerves early, said Mackenzie, “but that went away and we were able to play like we knew.”

Tony Bryce, VIU coach, said the coaching staff told the players at half time to continue to trust in what had brought them to this stage of the season. The Mariners also knew that the Rustlers had some injury issues, and so the home team pushed the pace.

“I think they got tired. We just kept pushing at ‘em, and we did a better job of execution and communicating on the defensive end…” Bryce said. “We just believed. We’ve put a lot of work in and there was no panic at half time. We believe in the work we’ve put in not just this year, but over the years, and you’ve got to trust it.”

The gym was rocking for nationals and the Mariners seemed to find a way to embrace that excitement as the game went on.

“It’s a hard thing,” Bryce said. “You’ve got energy and then you’ve got to find a balance of having too much energy so [it’s about] being able to channel that energy.”

Chloe Scaber led the Mariners with 14 points and Mackenzie had 12 points and 11 rebounds. Ranika Guyton finished with 10 points. The Rustlers were led by Bilge Topaloglu who scored 20 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, and Leena Garda who added 12.

GAME ON … The Mariners will now prepare for a semifinal game Saturday, March 26, at 8 p.m. at the VIU gym against either the Humber Hawks or the Dawson Blues.

READ ALSO: Basketball nationals about to tip off at long last for VIU Mariners



editor@nanaimobulletin.com

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