VIU escapes Douglas with tough win, remains undefeated

VIU’s Brandon Jones had on off-night against Douglas, but still led all scorers with 19 points. - Brian Jones photo

VIU’s Brandon Jones had on off-night against Douglas, but still led all scorers with 19 points. In the throwback above, Jones goes to the bucket during the 2012 PacWest championship semifinals. – Brian Jones photo

The Vancouver Island University Mariners had everything to lose on Friday night.

They had an undefeated record. They presented perfection dating back to last season’s national title. They came in ranked third in the CCAA’s national rankings. And, they had something a little more tangible to lose – their pride and confidence.

But it’s those last two that mattered most. Those two crucial facets of VIU’s identity, the building blocks of their genetic makeup that make them so good in the first place, were what helped them walk out of their battle with the Douglas College Royals not quite unscathed, but still undefeated.

VIU left New Westminster with an 83-79 win over Douglas last night, though the outcome was in question up until roughly 19 seconds left in the game.

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PacWest Week 3 Power Rankings

Kwanlten’s rookie guard Obi Udevi was one of the lone bright spots for Kwantlen on Saturday against Douglas. - Brian Jones Photo

Kwanlten’s rookie guard Obi Udevi was one of the lone bright spots for Kwantlen on Saturday against Douglas. – Brian Jones Photo

This past weekend was devoid of upsets and surprises around the PacWest, as the giants still stand tall, but the race for fifth place is heating up.

The top half of this week’s rankings remains unchanged, as Vancouver Island University Mariners and Langara College Falcons both swept their respective doubleheaders, while the Quest University Kermodes and Capilano University Blues each split their island road trip.

VIU is still the only undefeated team in the PacWest after picking up a 76-65 win over Quest on Friday then drumming Cap 80-58 on Saturday.

Langara easily handled the Kwantlen Polytechnic University Eagles and Columbia Bible College Bearcats, breaking the triple-digit mark in both bouts and averaging a 47-point margin of victory over the weekend. The Falcons’ loss in Week 2 to Quest may have been exactly what they needed, because adding a tally to Langara’s loss column is like trying to put out a house fire with gasoline.

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PacWest Week 2 Power Rankings

Falcons forward Elliot Mason looks to break ankles out on the wing. - Brian Jones Photo

Falcons forward Elliot Mason looks to break ankles out on the wing. – Brian Jones Photo

Capilano head coach Dwayne Selby summed up the crazy finishes and surprising blowouts around the PacWest this past weekend:

“There’s a lot of parity in the league right now. Our league is up for grabs, and I told my guys that if you don’t show up to play every single night, anyone can beat you.”

Selby’s words have been identical to what almost every other coach in the league has been preaching since preseason.

VIU is the only squad still standing with an unblemished record, but they’ve been lobbed softballs thus far, beating Camosun, Kwantlen and CBC (the bottom three teams in the league) by an average of 25.7 points. The Mariners will face their biggest challenge when they host Quest and Capilano next weekend.

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PacWest Preview: Vancouver Island University Mariners

Brandon Jones looks to lead VIU back to the national stage in 2014. - Brian Jones photo

Brandon Jones looks to lead VIU back to the national stage in 2014. – Brian Jones Photo

Regular-season record: 16-5

Provincial tournament: Silver medallists

National tournament: Gold medallists

Key returning players:

  • Brandon Jones (4th year)
  • Clayton Billett (5th year)
  • Evan Verdel (5th year)
  • Jason McKee (3rd year)
  • Harrison Stupich (4th year)

Key losses:

  • Adam Connolly
  • Ryan Davidson
  • Tyler Olsen
  • Jon Bethell (injury)

Rookies:

  • Jerod Dorby
  • Seth Goodman
  • Bryson Cox
  • Liam Horne

Last March, after the Vancouver Island University Mariners conquered the CCAA’s best and took home gold in Montreal, they were awarded a plethora of hardware: a banner, individual medals and trophies, and customary championship rings.

But if you search for distinguishing jewelery on head coach Matt Kuzminski’s hands, you’re only going to be able to tell that he’s married, and not a national champion.

He doesn’t want to flaunt it. He doesn’t want to show it off. In fact, he doesn’t even want to think about it.

“We got our ring and everything, but I put all of that stuff away,” said Kuzminski. “I don’t really look at it and I don’t really think too much about the championship. I’m conscious of taking the approach where you have stay hungry and keep trying to get better. Any time you get content, I think that’s where you have a chance to slip up and people are going to pass you by.”

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Langara beats VIU to claim PacWest crown – both teams headed to nationals

Langara College celebrates its first PacWest provincial title since 1999. - Matt Bossons Photo

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.”

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Unprecedented achievement

Quest's rookie point guard Denzel Laguerta slices through multiple Camosun defenders on his way to the hoop. - Brian Jones Photo

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.

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Coming up short

Kwantlen guard Aaron Ram gets hack by Langara forward Jesse Jeffers during their Feb. 8 matchup in Surrey. - Brian Jones Photo

Kwantlen guard Aaron Ram gets hacked 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.

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