PLAYOFF PREVIEW: Cascades basketball teams open Canada West post-season, women at home

The University of the Fraser Valley basketball teams begin their Canada West playoff journeys with best-of-three first-round series this weekend.

The Cascades women’s squad hosts the Calgary Dinos at the Envision Athletic Centre beginning Friday, while the men’s team takes on the Winnipeg Wesmen on the road starting Thursday.

WBB: Cascades renew hostilities with Dinos

Friday: Cascades (12-8, No. 8 seed in Canada West) vs. Calgary Dinos (11-9, No. 9 seed in Canada West), 6 p.m.

Saturday: Cascades vs. Dinos, 5 p.m.

*Sunday: Cascades vs. Dinos, 5 p.m. (if necessary)

Envision Athletic Centre

Webcast: ufv.canadawest.tv

The Cascades have home-court advantage against a Dinos squad they split a two-game weekend set with in Calgary back in January. Both nights, the third quarter proved pivotal. The Dinos won the opener 69-59 on Jan. 12, breaking the game open by outscoring UFV 33-15 in the third. The Cascades bounced back the next night for a 69-60 triumph, with Sydney Williams sparking a 32-16 third-quarter surge for the visitors.

On paper, the series looks to be a defensive struggle. Both teams were in the middle of the pack offensively – Calgary scored 63.5 points per game in the regular season to rank 10th out of 17 teams in Canada West, while UFV was 11th at 62.7. And both were among the better defensive squads in the conference, the Cascades (62.4 points allowed per game) and Dinos (62.6 points allowed) ranking sixth and seventh, respectively.

But Cascades head coach Al Tuchscherer believes both teams have the talent to light up the scoreboard.

“I look at Calgary as a team who can really dictate the pace of the game,” he analyzed. “If you don’t control that a bit, their offence can really get going and get away from you. They have some kids who can really attack the hoop off the dribble. I think some of their stats are deceptive in terms of what they can do offensively.

“We’re a team that takes pride in how we defend, and we’ve had times this year where we’ve been a very good defensive team. That’s going to have to show itself this weekend, for sure.”

Players to watch: This weekend will mark the final home games for Cascades fifth-year standout Kayli Sartori, who finished fifth in Canada West scoring this season at 16.4 points per game and was also among the conference leaders in assists, rebounding, steals and blocks. The hosts will need her to be at her versatile best against the Dinos. Keep an eye on Syd Williams, too – she knocked down seven three-pointers in UFV’s win in Calgary, and gave the squad a defensive spark to turn that game around. There’s also a neat local storyline to monitor, as rookies Jessica Zawada of the Cascades and Bobbi Jo Colburn of the Dinos face off. The two were teammates at Richmond’s R.A. McMath Secondary, helping the Wildcats to a silver medal at last season’s B.C. AAA high school provincials. Zawada has come on strong in the second half of the season as a key reserve for the Cascades, while Colburn (10.9 points per game) is Calgary’s second-leading scorer. Brianna Ghali (12.1 points per game) is Calgary’s offensive leader.

MBB: Cascades seek success on the road vs. Wesmen

When Andrew Morris plays well, the Cascades tend to win – they’re 9-0 when Morris scores in double figures.

Thursday: Cascades (11-9, No. 10 seed in Canada West) at Winnipeg Wesmen (12-8, No. 7 seed in Canada West), 7 p.m. CST / 5 p.m. PST

Friday: Cascades at Wesmen, 3 p.m. CST / 1 p.m. PST

*Saturday: Cascades at Wesmen, 3 p.m. CST / 1 p.m. PST (if necessary)

Webcast: ufv.canadawest.tv

For the second straight year, the Cascades men’s hoopsters are off to the Manitoba capital to open the playoffs. Last year, they suffered a two-game sweep at the hands of the Manitoba Bisons; this year, the Winnipeg Wesmen are the foe.

The Cascades and Wesmen didn’t see one another in league play this season, nor the previous two. The last time the two teams met was in the 2015 preseason, UFV earning a 71-64 victory at the Wesmen’s Lea Marc Printing tournament.

This year’s edition of the Wesmen can put up points in a hurry – they’re an athletic squad which thrives in transition, and averaged 82.3 points per game during the regular season, fifth-best in Canada West. The Cascades (77.8 points per game) ranked 11th in the same metric.

“They’ve got a lot of team speed, they’re very aggressive on both ends of the floor, and if we allow them to get out in transition we’re going to make life really hard on ourselves,” Cascades head coach Adam Friesen analyzed. “We’ve got to play aggressive ourselves, but be smart, avoid trying to play too much one-on-one, and really value making the simple play.”

UFV’s great equalizer is its outside shooting – the Cascades ranked second in Canada West in three-point percentage (38.0) and in triples made (199) and attempted (523). They’ve been playing some great team basketball of late – they’ve posted an 8-4 record since the Christmas break, and come in on a four-game win streak.

Players to watch: The Cascades’ offensive heartbeat is the fifth-year backcourt duo of Manny Dulay and Vijay Dhillon, whose combined 126 three-pointers are more than any other pair of teammates in the nation. If one or both of them can catch fire, look out. Dulay leads U Sports with 78 threes, and his 4.7 assists per game are second-most in Canada West. Andrew Morris’s play is a good barometer of the Cascades’ success – the small forward has scored in double figures nine times this season, and UFV is a perfect 9-0 in those games. He averages 8.4 points per game off the bench. The Wesmen’s leading scorer, third-year forward Sean Tarver (15.6 points per game, 43.9 per cent from beyond the arc), comes off the bench, and the hosts also get strong contributions from third-year point guard Denzel Lynch-Blair (15.3 points per game, 3.5 assists).

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