The VIU Mariners needed to give everything they had to win a championship.
Vancouver Island University’s men’s basketball team won the PacWest title on Saturday after an exciting, exhausting weekend in Abbotsford.
VIU beat the Langara Falcons 82-76 in the final after getting past the Douglas Royals 89-82 in the semis.
“There’s something special about this team … We’re not always the most disciplined of groups, we have some interesting players and interesting characters,” said Matt Kuzminski, VIU coach. “But the one thing about these guys is they have a ton of heart and they never give up and when things seem to be as tough as they can be, they always seem to pull through.”
The semifinal game saw VIU on the ropes, down as many as nine points late, but the Mariners found a way. Justin King scored 34 points and Jerod Dorby added 15 points and 15 rebounds.
It was a draining game, mentally and emotionally, said the coach, but the M’s found enough for the next day’s final. The matchup against the Falcons was tied going into the fourth quarter and the Mariners were “locked in,” the coach said.
“Our whole thing was, don’t try to focus on the score or don’t even focus on winning the game, because sometimes it can seem like a daunting task. Just focus on the small things – getting a good shot or getting a stop. Then it seems a little more doable.”
King led his team with 19 points before suffering an injury late. Chris Parker scored 18, Kadeem Stewart had 12 and Dorby had 11 points and 11 boards.
King was chosen MVP and Dorby and Jason Fortin were tournament all-stars.
The Pacific Western Athletic Association title marked a breakthrough for the Mariners, as the men had lost to the Falcons in the final each of the last two years. So it was the first provincial crown for Kuzminski and vets like Fortin, and for newcomers like Stewart, who had never played a playoff basketball game in college until this weekend.
“There were a lot of storylines that made it really sweet,” Kuzminski said. “But I just felt drained at the end. It was exhausting.”
The M’s men qualify for the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association championships in Hamilton starting March 18.
Mariners women medal
VIU’s women’s basketball team earned bronze medals at provincials, beating the Camosun Chargers 57-44 earlier Saturday in Abbotsford. Sienna Pollard scored 14 points and Jenna Carver had 13 points and 11 rebounds.
The Mariners ladies had lost their semifinal to the Douglas Royals the day before, 62-57. Carver had 14 and 11 in that game and Pollard had 14 points, as well.
Carver was selected a tournament all-star.
The Mariners women’s basketball team gets to compete at the CCAA championships thanks to their host berth. The tournament begins March 18 at Vancouver Island University.