Cascades coming of age

Cascades centre Sarah Wierks hoists a shot over a pair of Alberta Pandas defenders during weekend action at the Envision Athletic Centre. - John Morrow
Cascades centre Sarah Wierks hoists a shot over a pair of Alberta Pandas defenders during weekend action at the Envision Athletic Centre.
— image credit: John Morrow

After enduring two rebuilding seasons, University of the Fraser Valley women’s basketball coach Al Tuchscherer is finally beginning to enjoy the fruits of his labour.

Tuchscherer’s Cascades engineered an impressive upset victory on Friday, knocking off the Alberta Pandas 69-63 at the Envision Athletic Centre. The Pandas boasted a Canada West-leading 12-2 record coming in, and were No. 7 in the national rankings.

The Pandas bounced back to split the two-game set, winning 70-52 on Saturday, but it’s clear that the best is yet to come for the youthful Cascades. With the exception of veterans Alyssa Gaukel and Tessa Klassen, every player on the roster is in their first or second year of eligibility.

At 8-8 on the season, UFV is currently seventh in Canada West, but at the rate they’re improving on a game-to-game basis, the upper echelon doesn’t seem so far away.

“The mindset is different than it was last year,” Tuchscherer said, reflecting on his team’s performance this season after going a combined 6-35 over the previous two Canada West campaigns. “There’s higher expectations (internally). We know we can play with these teams.

“Every game is a learning process for us. It’s exciting, and the players are hungry for that.”

Klassen, UFV’s fourth-year point guard, led the way on the weekend, scoring 14 points in Friday’s win and 18 points on Saturday. The Wierks sisters, Nicole and Sarah, both had big games Friday – Nicole, a second-year forward, had a team-high 15 points, while Sarah, a rookie centre, had a double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds.

The Cascades men’s hoopsters followed a similar script, beating Alberta Friday (80-69) before losing Saturday (84-70). UFV led by as many as 22 points in fourth quarter and cruised to victory in the opener, with Sam Freeman (26 points) and Joel Friesen (23) pacing the offence.

On Saturday, Friesen made the play of the game, throwing down a huge two-handed dunk over Alberta’s 6’11” centre, Robert Dewar. But Alberta came out with a ton of energy and built an early 10-point lead. The Cascades battled back to tie the game before the first quarter was up, but the Golden Bears pulled away down the stretch as UFV struggled shooting the ball from beyond the arc (7-for-26).

The Cascades men hold down the eighth and final Canada West playoff spot with a 6-10 record.

• The UFV hoopsters are off this weekend, and return to action with a pair of home games against the Regina Cougars Jan. 28-29.

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