On a night where Sarah Wierks moved into second place on the all-time Canada West rebounding list, it was fitting that she came up with a clutch offensive board to help her team close out a hard-fought win over the UBC Okanagan Heat.
With the Cascades leading 68-67 with 15.8 seconds left in regulation, Katie Brink went to the line for two free throws. She made the first and missed the second, but Wierks chased down the loose ball to force the Heat into a fouling situation.
Nataliia Gavryliuk took the foul and made one of two free throws to give the Cascades a 70-67 lead, and that would be the final score as UBC Okanagan’s Sarah Allison came up short on her potential game-tying three-pointer against a strong close-out from UFV point guard Celeste Dyck.
The Cascades – who were celebrating their eighth annual Shoot for the Cure night in support of the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation – improved to 7-6, good for third in the Explorer Division. The fifth-place Heat fell to 4-9. The two teams play again tomorrow at UFV’s Envision Athletic Centre (5 p.m. tip-off).
“It’s a different game when she’s in there, because she cleans up so much and creates so many second-chance opportunities,” Cascades head coach Al Tuchscherer said of Wierks, who finished with game-high totals of 22 points and 18 rebounds. “What can you say that hasn’t already been said? Almost another 20-20 game tonight. She was great.”
Wierks, the Cascades’ fifth-year centre, came into the game with 908 rebounds over the course of her career, four back of former Calgary Dinos great Janis Paskevich. She needed less than seven minutes to grab five boards and leapfrog Paskevich, and she finished the night with 926 career rebounds, second only in conference history to Saskatchewan Huskies legend Sarah Crooks (1,181 rebounds).
The Cascades led by as many as 11 points in the first quarter, but the Heat came roaring back to take a 37-35 lead going into halftime, ending the second quarter on an 11-4 run.
UBC Okanagan stretched the lead to 49-39 midway through the third quarter, but the Cascades reeled off an 11-0 run to reclaim the lead.
The score was tied on three occasions early in the fourth quarter, but UFV put together an 8-0 spurt, highlighted by a pair of Wierks layups, and seemed well in control leading 68-60 with less than four minutes remaining.
The Heat refused to be snuffed, though – they scored the next seven points, capped by an Allison triple with a minute and a half to go.
UFV dug in on defence, and Wierks’s offensive rebound in the dying seconds helped to salt the game away.
Brink chipped in with 17 points and Gavryliuk notched 15 for the Cascades, while Jessica Jazdarehee (17 points) and Sarah Allison (15 points) set the pace for the Heat.
Tuchscherer termed his team’s performance “undisciplined,” and was particularly concerned with some of the fouls they took.
“We had a lot of bad fouls that put us in bad situations,” he said.
“We made a couple of adjustments to their full-court pressure and one to what we were running in the halfcourt (in the third quarter), and I think it was positive. And Sarah and Katie came up pretty big at the offensive end of the floor.”