Playoff Free Throws: BC schools set to host play-ins

Playoff Free Throws: BC schools set to host play-ins

Brian Swane, Special to Canada West

EDMONTON - The road to the 2017 ArcelorMittal Dofasco U SPORTS Women's Basketball Final 8 in Victoria starts Thursday, as playoff competition gets underway in Canada West.

Eight teams will square off in four best-of-three series during the play-in round, with the winners advancing to the quarter-finals, where they will join the defending national champion Saskatchewan Huskies, Alberta Pandas, Regina Cougars and Winnipeg Wesmen

This week's games will not be lacking in calibre, with two of the teams (UBC and Victoria) having spent multiple weeks this season ranked in the U SPORTS Top 10, and another (MacEwan) that was a Canada West semi-finalist last year. 

A look at the series:

(12) UNBC vs. (5) UBC

One of the most storied programs in Canadian university women's basketball hosts a team that is making its first post-season appearance as the Timberwolves (6-14) travel to Vancouver to battle the T-Birds (16-4).

History favours the home side (the T-Birds have six national titles, while UNBC is only in its fifth season of Canada West basketball), as does the present (UBC is 2-0 against the T-Wolves this season, winning by an average of 10 points).

To author an upset, the T-Wolves will rely on the tandem of Maria Mongomo (16.1 points per game) and Vasiliki Louka (15.8 ppg), who combined account for nearly half of UNBC's scoring. UBC is led by guard Maddison Penn, who ranks second in Canada West in points with 18.1 ppg.

(11) MacEwan vs. (6) Victoria 

As host, Victoria is already guaranteed a berth at Nationals, but the Vikes (12-8) need a strong playoff performance to enter Final 8 with momentum and earn a high seed.

MacEwan (7-13) is looking for a repeat of their Cinderella run a year ago, when it made its first Canada West Final Four appearance.

The Vikes stumbled late in the schedule, losing their final three games, while the Griffins dropped eight consecutive games spanning December and January, before winning three of their last four to clinch a playoff spot. The teams met twice in Edmonton in November, with the Vikes winning both, 68-61 and 74-52.

(10) Brandon vs. (7) Trinity Western

The Spartans (12-8) had the best regular-season record in team history this season, and aim to make more history by winning a playoff series for the first time when they host Brandon (8-12).

The Bobcats need to snap out of a skid that has seen them drop five of their last six, while TWU would like to make home court more advantageous than it proved during the regular season, when the Spartans were 5-4 at the Langley Events Centre.

The series features two of Canada West's top scorers with Brandon guard Keisha Cox (17.9 ppg, third in conference) and Spartans guard Tessa Ratzlaff (16.7 ppg, fourth). The teams last played each other in January 2016, splitting a pair of games in Langley.

(9) Calgary vs. (8) Fraser Valley

As one would expect from teams seeded so closely, not much separates the Cascades (12-8) from the Dinos (11-9). Each beat the other once this season, by nearly identical scores (69-60 for the Cascades, 69-59 for Calgary); they score at nearly the same rate (63.5 ppg from the Dinos; 62.7 from UFV), their points allowed is even closer (UFV – 62.0 per game; Dinos – 62.6), and their margin of victory is virtually equal (0.9 for Calgary; 0.7 for the Cascades).

UFV has the a standout individual player in dynamic guard Kayli Sartori (averages of 16.4 points, 7 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 3 steals and 1 block), while Calgary relies on depth, with five players scoring at least 7 ppg, but none higher than 12.1.

Women's basketball play-in series schedule:

Thu. 16 Brandon   Trinity Western   7:00 PM PST
  CW Play-In Series - Game 1
Fri. 17 UNBC   UBC   3:00 PM PST
  CW Play-In Series - Game 1
  Calgary   UFV   6:00 PM PST
  CW Play-In Series - Game 1
  MacEwan   Victoria   7:00 PM PST
  CW Play-In Series - Game 1
  Brandon   Trinity Western   7:00 PM PST
  CW Play-In Series - Game 2
Sat. 18 UNBC   UBC   2:00 PM MST
  CW Play-In Series - Game 2
  Calgary   UFV   5:00 PM PST
  CW Play-In Series - Game 2
  MacEwan   Victoria   7:00 PM PST
  CW Play-In Series - Game 2
  Brandon   Trinity Western   7:00 PM PST
  CW Play-In Series - Game 3 (if necessary)
Sun. 19 MacEwan   Victoria   1:00 PM PST
  CW Play-In Series - Game 3 (if necessary)
  UNBC   UBC   2:00 PM PST
  CW Play-In Series - Game 3 (if necessary)
  Calgary   UFV   5:00 PM PST
  CW Play-In Series - Game 3 (if necessary)

Watch every game on Canada West TV