Langara College celebrates its first PacWest provincial title since 1999. – Matt Bossons Photo
On Saturday night, the only thing up for grabs was bragging rights.
Well that, and a provincial gold medal.
Both the Vancouver Island University Mariners and Langara College Falcons had already qualified for CCAA nationals by making it to Saturday’s final. Win or lose, they were both going to get a chance to showcase their talents on the brightest collegiate stage in Canada.
But it was evident that both squads wanted to finish their PacWest campaigns as champs. Whether it was for bragging rights, that gold medal, or the momentum that a conference title gives a team headed to Nat’s, both VIU and Langara didn’t take the task lightly.
Jitinder Lohcham poured in 25 points and led Langara to a 78-74 win over VIU to claim PacWest gold in Victoria at Camosun’s Pacific Institute for Sport Excellence.
“You can’t ask for a better final than that,” said Langara head coach Paul Eberhardt after the game, fitted with the winning net around his neck. “A really intense defensive team, which is what we’re going to see from these teams back east – you know, very physical defense – a close game where it came right down to the end. It’s perfect. For both teams, it’ll be a great preparation for nationals.”
Quest’s rookie point guard Denzel Laguerta slices through multiple Camosun defenders on his way to the hoop. – Brian Jones Photo
There’s a routine that PacWest teams are used to when they visit Vancouver Island. They come over on the ferry, play in Victoria on Friday night at 8 pm, and then travel up to Nanaimo the next day to play at 3 pm, or vice-versa.
For the Quest University Kermodes, it was no different at the provincial championships.
On Thursday night, they were pitted against tournament hosts Camosun College in the 8 pm timeslot. The stands were completely packed, but held a surprisingly even amount of fans from both sides. Camosun had a strong contingent of supporters due to the home court advantage, but Quest had a bus full of students and family make the trek over from Squamish.
The game was an anomaly. Incredibly low scoring plagued both squads but the intensity and emotion was unrivaled.
Royals point guard Andrew Baron slashes past Blues forward Sam Zhang during their quarterfinal matchup Thursday, Feb. 28. – Matt Bossons Photo
The Douglas College Royals have a certain piece of equipment that is intended to help them each time they step on the court. It’s not their shoes. It’s not tape or an ankle support. It’s something you can’t see.
A clock. Or more specifically, “The Clock that Rocks.”
“Every arm on the clock refers to a goal that we have,” said Royals head coach Denis Beausoleil. “And one of those arms is mindset. And our mindset going into this game was to stay in the moment. Another arm on the clock that rocks is wherever you are, be there – just staying in the moment. We were confident coming in, we were comfortable, we were relaxed, but the guys really wanted it. And I thought that every one of our guys that got in to the game played well, and I was really happy.”
Last night, the Royals followed this philosophy and hammered the Capilano University Blues 83-65, propelling them to tonight’s PacWest semifinal.
Kwantlen forward Christina Brown drives past Quest guard Shayna Cameron during Thursday’s quarterfinal game on Thursday, Feb. 28. – Matt Bossons Photo.
One down, two to go.
With a 64-48 win over the Quest University Kermodes, the Kwantlen Eagles women have punched a ticket to tonight’s semifinal bout against the top-ranked Capilano University Blues.
But despite getting that first W, no weight or pressure has been lifted off of the Eagles. If anything, the monkey on their back has become a gorilla.
“It’s one game at a time. It’s been our theme this year of not filling in the blank with either we’re gonna win or we’re gonna lose,” said Kwantlen’s head coach Dan Nayebzadeh. “Just go out and play as hard as we can and let the chips fall as they may.”
Eagles guard Haeley Williams goes in for an uncontested layup against Douglas College on Feb. 9. – Brian Jones Photo
If there’s any nervousness or tension on the part of the Kwantlen women’s basketball team, it’s not showing.
The night before the big dance – their first round playoff matchup against the Quest University Kermodes – head coach Dan Nayebzadeh is the picture of calm and collection.
“I don’t feel very nervous, I’m actually watching a TV show,” said Nayebzadeh over the phone late Wednesday night, his voice very relaxed and composed. “I kind of have to let the chips fall where they may, can’t really think about it too much. It’s uncertain who’s going to win and you can’t really control those things. You just have to control what you can – show up and play as hard as you can and see what happens.”
Nayebzadeh and his team had just finished a dinner, and he explained that it was lighthearted and full of laughs. The camaraderie between the girls has been the catalyst for the their success throughout the PacWest grind.
Kwantlen guard Aaron Ram gets hack by Langara forward Jesse Jeffers during their Feb. 8 matchup in Surrey. – Brian Jones Photo
There was a slim chance of a positive outcome for the Kwantlen men’s basketball team this past weekend. In my last article, I detailed the miniscule odds that would send them to the postseason. Unfortunately for the Eagles, those odds were stacked too heavily against them.
On Friday, Feb. 15 against Camosun College, the Eagles played some of their best – and strangest – basketball all year. Their starting point guard, Chris Arcangel, was out for the third straight game with an ankle injury, and their back-up lead guard, Nii Engmann, was taking care of his newborn baby daughter. Kwantlen was left without any of their usual ball handlers, but Wilson managed to find an unlikely substitute that ended up causing a ton of matchup problems.
He called upon third-year forward Tristan Gruenthaler to run the offense. Gruenthaler had rarely ventured outside the paint during the entire season, and has a offensive repertoire that revolves around up-and-unders, turnaround hooks, and spot-up 10-foot jumpers. He’s 6-foot-6, has one of the biggest bodies on Kwantlen’s roster, but on Friday he was given a new role – to run the Eagles’ offense.
Besides completely surprising the Chargers, the shuffle created a ripple effect of matchup problems. If a post player came out to defend Gruenthaler, that gave Ali Bosir more room to operate in the post. If they brought out a guard, that forced other bigger, slower defenders to have to close out Kwantlen’s three-point shooters.
Eagles centre Ali Bosir is wrapped up by Falcons forward Garrett Ling-Lee on his way to what would have been a huge two-handed cram. – Brian Jones Photo
Overmatched at the worst possible time of the season, Kwantlen couldn’t keep up with the nationally-ranked Langara Falcons, losing 100-75 Friday night at home.
Guard Jeff Chu paced the Falcons with 22 points, while forward Jesse Jeffers dropped 18 points and grabbed 7 boards.
However the most impressive line of the night comes from point guard Brody Greig, who tallied the strangest near-quadruple double I’ve ever seen, going for 13 assists, nine steals, eight rebounds and seven points.
Kwantlen’s man in the middle, Ali Bosir, racked up 16 points and 16 rebounds, while forward Tristan Gruenthaler finally showed what he’s capable of offensively, scoring 19 points and ripping down 13 boards – unfortunately those numbers came at a price of seven turnovers from the 6-foot-6 Yale Secondary grad.
Usually on a night where Kwantlen sticks around early in the game, like they did in the first quarter of last night’s match – trailing only 21-20 at the first break – I would cite their late-game inconsistency as the roots of their perils.
But to say that they’re inconsistent would be a lie. They consistently melt down in the latter half of most games after seemingly-strong starts. They consistently shoot the ball poorly in the third and fourth quarters. And they consistently rack up losses when they have the ability to win.