Hot-shooting Vikes eliminate Cascades from Canada West playoffs

Cascades teammates Sara Simovic, Shayna Litman and Kate Head battle for a loose ball on Friday vs. the Victoria Vikes. (Richard Abbot photos)

The University of the Fraser Valley women’s basketball team was unable to slow the high-octane Victoria Vikes on Friday evening, dropping a 91-62 decision in their Canada West single-elimination playoff clash in Victoria.

The Vikes shot 55.7 per cent from the field behind a tremendous performance from fourth-year guard Amira Giannattasio (33 points, 10 rebounds, three steals) to end the Cascades’ 2017-18 campaign.

The result also marked the conclusion of Shayna Litman and Sara Simovic’s university basketball careers. Both UFV fifth-year standouts scored in double figures – Litman posting a team-high 18 points to go with 10 rebounds, and Simovic notching 10 points. Taylor Claggett added 15 points, eight boards and three assists for the Cascades.

“They came out with a lot of energy tonight, and they were really motivated,” UFV head coach Al Tuchscherer said of the Vikes. “We knew they could execute (offensively), and they did that tonight. Their ball-screen offence was just first-rate, and everything we tried to do, they picked apart. They dictated the pace of the game, and obviously the better team won.”

The Vikes got off to a great start – they led 11-4 lead midway through the first quarter, and reeled off a 9-0 run early in the second to extend the advantage to 39-22. Giannattasio did much of the damage for the hosts, racking up 18 first-half points highlighted by a trio of three-pointers.

The Cascades found some traction midway through the second quarter, responding with a 12-0 run capped by a Claggett layup plus the foul to cut the deficit to 39-34. Victoria, though, ended the frame on a 6-0 surge to take a double-digit lead (45-34) into halftime.

Both teams shot the ball very well in the first half – the Cascades made 51.6 per cent of their attempts from the field, and the Vikes were at 55.9 per cent.

After the break, though, UFV cooled off, shooting just 27.3 per cent the rest of the way. Victoria, meanwhile, stayed piping hot, hitting 55.6 per cent of their shots.

The Cascades kept the deficit in the neighbourhood of 10 points until the final three minutes of the third quarter, when the Vikes scored nine straight points to boost the lead to 20 (68-48) heading to the fourth and essentially drain any suspense from the proceedings.

Kristy Gallagher (19 points) and Katie Langdon (14 points) also had big nights for Victoria.

“I thought Langdon was a real difference-maker tonight – she was 7-of-7 in the first half, and we didn’t really expect that from her,” Tuchscherer noted. “That kind of got us on our heels, and when they’re scoring inside and outside, it’s pretty tough.

Shayna Litman registered a double-double (18 points, 10 rebounds) in her final game as a Cascade.

“I thought it was pretty key for us to go on that run in the second quarter. It kept us in the game, and at halftime I felt pretty good about where we were at. We’d been so poor defensively . . . and I thought if we tightened things up in the second half, we had a chance. But they came out and hit us hard again.”

Reflecting on the campaign, Tuchscherer noted that while the program earned its eighth straight Canada West playoff berth, consistency proved elusive.

“It’s nice to make the playoffs, but I like to think we have a higher standard for our program than that,” he said. “We need to get to work pretty quick on re-establishing ourselves.”

Tuchscherer lauded the performances of Litman and Simovic in what turned out to be their Cascades finale.

“I thought both Shayna and Sara had terrific efforts tonight,” he said. “Right to the end of the game, they played hard and it’s unfortunate we didn’t have a better finish for them.”

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The University of the Fraser Valley is situated on the unceded traditional territory of the Stó:lō peoples. The Stó:lō have an intrinsic relationship with what they refer to as S’olh Temexw (Our Sacred Land); therefore, we express our gratitude and respect for the honour of living and working in this territory.

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