The UFV Cascades women’s basketball team (19-5) are hoping that the fourth time will be the charm as they head into this year’s Final Four tournament at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. This year, their fourth consecutive appearance, the Cascades are the fourth seed, have four coaches, and sport four graduating seniors on the roster.
The Cascades will take on the University of Alberta Pandas (22-2) in the semi-final Friday (7 pm PST), before playing in the gold medal or bronze medal final on Saturday against either the number two seeded University of Regina or the third seeded University of Saskatchewan. The top two teams will receive an automatic berth to CIS Nationals, while the bronze medal winner will have a chance at a wildcard seed.
Entering the tournament on a seven game winning streak, the Cascades will nevertheless have their hands full against the Pandas. Alberta hasn’t lost a game since Nov 8, 2013, and the squad is currently ranked third in the CIS, trailing only the Windsor Lancers and St. Mary’s Huskies. The fifth-ranked Cascades played a single game against the Pandas early in the season, but lost by a sizeable margin (73-61) and trailed by as much as 20 points in the fourth quarter. UFV will need to play tougher defense, both on the boards and in transition, if they wish to challenge the Pandas on Friday.
Alberta starts three players over six feet, and doesn’t get any shorter off the bench. The fact that the Pandas have only a single player among the Canada West’s top 30 scorers (Andrea Carlyon with 10.5 ppg), shows exactly how balanced is the team’s attack. In the game against UFV in November, Alberta guard Renee Byrne may have racked up 17 points, shooting 4-8 from beyond the arc, but in a game two weeks earlier against conference rival Regina, the Pandas won 59-41 without a single player scoring 10 or more points. Alberta can create offense through any number of players, and is a big, tough, physical team with the ability to run a structured offense or capitalize on the fast break.
The Cascades have racked up some impressive wins as well, including last week’s two game demolishment of Calgary, but Friday will be their most rigorous test since a two-point loss to Regina at the end of January. UFV will need a strong performance from point guard Aieisha Luyken, as well as significant point production from Kayli Sartori, a 6-0 forward with a guard’s skill set. The Cascades also bring a ‘new’ weapon to the table in Nataliia Gavryliuk, who has become one of UFV’s leading scorers in the second half of the season.
Women’s Final Four at Alberta Schedule
1. #3 Saskatchewan vs #2 Regina Friday, March 7 (5 pm PST)
2. #4 UFV vs #1 Alberta Friday, March 7 (7 pm PST)
Bronze and Gold Medal Games
3. Non-Alberta game will be played Saturday, March 8 (4:00 pm PST)
4. Alberta game will be play Saturday, March 8 (6:00 pm PST)
Final League Standings
1. Alberta – 20-2
2. Regina – 20-2
3. Saskatchewan – 17-5
4. UFV – 17-5
Alberta is ranked higher than Regina due to a better in division record (13-1 vs 12-2).
Saskatchewan is ranked higher than UFV as Saskatchewan defeated UFV in league play.
Watch the games online at canadawest.tv
(With files from the Canada West)