A fourth straight trip to the Canada West Final Four is on the line for the University of the Fraser Valley men’s basketball team this weekend, as they host a quarter-final playoff series at the Envision Athletic Centre.
Standing in the Cascades’ way are the Calgary Dinos, who are coming off a first-round sweep of the Manitoba Bisons.
The best-of-three series tips off Friday at 6 p.m. at the EAC, with Game 2 set for 6 p.m. Saturday and Game 3 (if necessary) running Sunday at 2 p.m.
“Hosting a playoff series two years in a row is something not every school gets to do very often,” said Cascades head coach Adam Friesen, whose team also enjoyed home court advantage in the 2014 quarter-finals and parlayed it into a two-game sweep of the Lethbridge Pronghorns. “We’ve done a very good job protecting home court, and the guys really take pride in winning our home games. Our crowds, when they’re loud and cheering, makes life easier for us.”
The Cascades had a first-round bye after finishing atop the Explorer Division with a 17-3 record. They’re the No. 2 overall seed in Canada West, and boast a balanced attack, a stout defence, and a high-level ability to rebound the basketball.
Six UFV players averaged double-figure scoring this season, led by Canada West third team all-star Kevon Parchment at 14.7 points per game. The others were Kadeem Willis (12.0), second team all-star Jasper Moedt (11.6), Nate Brown (11.3), Manny Dulay (11.3) and Dominque Brooks (10.9). A seventh player, reserve guard Vijay Dhillon, finished just shy of double digits at 8.8 points per game.
The Cascades’ diverse attack is one of the most potent in Canada West – they average 81.3 points per game, third-best in the conference. Even better is their defence, which surrenders just 69.7 points per game, which ranks second overall. Leading the way on D is Parchment, whose 51 steals were tied for first in the nation.
Moreover, UFV is an elite rebounding team – they combine to haul down 42.6 boards per game, tops in the conference, paced by Moedt’s Canada West-leading average of 10.7 rebounds. Their rebounding margin of +5.0 ranks third.
Calgary, the fifth-place finisher in the Pioneer Division at 12-8 and the No. 7 overall seed, fended off Manitoba in a first-round series at home, winning by scores of 92-81 and 93-81.
Those high-scoring performances are indicative of their high-octane offence – the Dinos averaged 79.9 points per game in the regular season, fourth-best in the conference. They’re particularly proficient at shooting the three-pointer, draining 36.4 per cent of their attempts beyond the arc to rank third in Canada West. (UFV is 13th in that department at 32.3 per cent.)
Leading the charge for Calgary is 5’10” fifth-year point guard Jared Ogungbemi-Jackson, one of Canada West’s brightest and most unique talents. The first team all-star led his team in scoring (19.3), assists (5.2) and most incredibly, rebounding (7.3).
Philip Barndt (10.8 points per game, 51.4 per cent shooting from three-point range) and Canada West rookie of the year Lars Schleuter (9.3 points per game, 39.6 per cent from three) also play key roles for the Dinos, while reserve forward Matt Letkeman, a product of Abbotsford’s Yale Secondary, is the team’s third-leading rebounder at 4.0 per game.
Both teams suffered the bulk of their losses down the stretch of the regular season. After opening the campaign on a 9-2 hot streak, the Dinos dropped six of their last nine games as their schedule toughened up after Christmas. The Cascades, meanwhile, won their first 15 games to lock up first place in the Explorer Division, and then split each of their last three weekend sets.
UFV has excelled at home in 2014-15, going 9-1 at the Envision Athletic Centre with their lone loss coming on the last night of the regular season to the Thompson Rivers WolfPack. Calgary is 6-5 on the road.
Friesen said the biggest challenge the Dinos pose is that they start five players who can really shoot the ball from distance.
“You combine that shooting ability with a point guard as good as Jared is, and you’ve got yourself a good team,” Friesen noted. “We have to make Jared’s life as tough as we can, hope for them not to have one of their best shooting weekends of the year, and then make the most of our advantages on the offensive end as often as we can. We’re going to have to have some success putting the ball in the paint and finishing.”
• Single-game tickets for the weekend series are $5 for adults and $2 for students. Children age six and under are admitted free, as are UFV students with campus ID. Cascades season tickets are no longer valid in the playoffs.