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Cascades women win national basketball bronze
The University of the Fraser Valley (UFV) Cascades women’s basketball team took sweet revenge on the Saskatchewan Huskies at the CIS national finals Sunday, snatching the bronze medal from their Canada West rivals with a 69-57 victory in the consolation final.
The Huskies had beaten UFV to claim the Canada West championship a week earlier by an 11-point margin.
On Sunday, the Cascades had the final word, defeating Saskatchewan by 12.
The fifth-seeded Cascades entered the game as the underdogs against the third-seeded Huskies.
They knew the key would be to shut down Canada West Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year Dalyce Emmerson.
In the Canada West final, Emmerson had made herself a one-woman army with 19 points, 22 rebounds, and eight blocks, something the Cascades could not afford to let happen again.
UFV's game plan suffered a serious blow right out of the gate, however, as top-scorer and top post-defender Chilliwack's Sarah Wierks picked up two quick fouls and withdrew to the bench.
Without Wierks, the Cascades were forced to call upon Kaitlyn Brink and Shayna Litman, neither a great match-up against Emmerson on paper.
What was on paper, though, didn’t seem to have much bearing Sunday. Litman played only 17 minutes, but picked up eight points and six rebounds against larger opponents. Brink scored five points and played one of her best defensive games of the year. Together they almost matched Emmerson’s total of 16 points and six rebounds, giving the Cascades the chance to rest Wierks and keep her out of further foul trouble.
The Cascades trailed the Huskies 13-12 after the first quarter, and led 30-27 at half, but it was the third quarter that decided the game.
In that single, ten-minute span the Cascades scored 25 points, shooting 47.4 percent from the floor, including 62.5 percent (5-8) from downtown. Chilliwack's Courtney Bartel caught fire and hit 3-3 from behind the arc, while Columbia Valley's Kayli Sartori caused all sorts of trouble driving to the rim.
Pulling a trick from a Hollywood sports film, Sarah Wierks then hit a buzzer-beater trey in the last second of the quarter to put the Cascades ahead 55-40. (It was the Chilliwack secondary school grad's only three-pointer of the season, and one of only three attempts over the same span.)
The Huskies never recovered.
Nicole Wierks, Aieisha Luyken and Nataliia Gavryliuk all chipped in baskets to keep the Cascades' lead in double-digits as time elapsed and then expired, sealing the win for UFV.
Sartori, with 13 points and nine rebounds, was named Player of the Game. Bartel, with 12 points, finished 4-8 from behind the arc. Luyken amassed eight points and five assists.
The bronze-medal finish was an emotional one, especially for four players (Luyken, Bartel, Nicole Wierks, and Samantha Kurath) who started with the Cascades in 2009-2010 and began their university careers in the basement of Canada West, finishing their first season 2-18.
“This is something that [UFV head coach] Al [Tuchscherer]'s been working hard to accomplish for years with this group,” Cascades assistant coach Sean Bosco said. “When he started recruiting these girls that are graduating, he had a vision in mind for something like this. For them to realize that vision is very humbling for a coach. They never stopped believing in the vision that he set up for them, and here they are today as a top three team in the nation. I’m proud of the way our players supported each other today, not just our fifth-years, but also some of our younger players that came off the bench. The legacy that some of our older players are leaving is fantastic.”