Playoff Free Throws: Conference's top four join playoff fray

Playoff Free Throws: Conference's top four join playoff fray

Brian Swane, Special to Canada West

EDMONTON – The Saskatchewan Huskies begin their championship defence this week, as Canada West women's basketball playoff action moves to the quarter-finals.

Alberta, Regina and Winnipeg also enter the post-season fray, joined by the four winning teams from last week's exciting play-in round.

At stake in each of the best-of-three series is a spot in Canada West Final Four, hosted by the highest remaining seed March 3 and 4. Teams will then play for berths at the 2017 ArcelorMittal Dofasco U SPORTS Women's Basketball Final 8 in Victoria.

The Pandas and Cougars are seeking a return trip to Final Four, while last week's elimination of the MacEwan Griffins means there will be at least one new semi final participant.

A look at the series:

(8) UFV vs. (1) Saskatchewan 

The Cascades reward for surviving a three-game play-in series against the Calgary Dinos last weekend is a trip to Saskatoon and a match-up with the 2016 national champs, who have lost just once since mid-November. After capturing their first Bronze Baby last year, the Huskies started 1-3 before going 14-2 the rest of the way en route to the No.1 seed.

Four Saskatchewan players average double-figure scoring, while UFV leans on guard Kayli Sartori, who ranked fifth in Canada West with 16.4 ppg this season and was spectacular against the Dinos, scoring 62 points over the three games.

The Cascades and Huskies split a pair of games in Abbotsford on the opening weekend of the regular season, with UFV winning 59-48 and Saskatchewan posting a 53-44 victory. A handful of players remain from 2014, when the Huskies beat UFV in the Canada West final.

(7) Trinity Western vs. (2) Regina

The defending Canada West silver-medalists from Regina take on the upstart Spartans, who are coming off their first playoff series win, rallying from a 1-0 deficit to defeat Brandon in three games. The teams met twice in Langley at the end of November, with Regina winning both by a combined 44 points.

Regina paced the conference in points scored (75.1 per game) and fewest allowed (52.8). The Cougars are also the conference's top three-point shooting team, knocking down 158 treys in 20 games, led by star senior Katie Polischuk with 54. Spartans guard Tessa Ratzlaff ranked fourth in Canada West with 16.7 ppg, but struggled in the two regular season games against Regina, averaging 6.5 points and shooting 29.4% from the field.

Though Regina lost just one at home this season, TWU can draw confidence from the fact they play well away from home, going 7-4 on the road.

(6) Victoria vs. (3) Winnipeg

As host team, Victoria is assured a spot at nationals, but the Vikes hardly looked like they were taking things easy in a play-in sweep of the Griffins. Now they head to Winnipeg, where the Vikes face a Wesmen team that beat them twice on Vancouver Island during the final weekend of the regular season.

Winnipeg had Canada West's second best offence, three spots ahead of Victoria (69.8 ppg). Wesmen guard Antoinette Miller is the conference's top scorer (18.7 ppg), while all five of Victoria's starters averaged at least 8.9 points.

These teams last met in the playoffs in 2005, when Victoria upset Winnipeg 2-1 in the Canada West quarterfinals. The Wesmen are seeking their first post-season win in eight years.

(5) UBC vs. (4) Alberta

If the regular season is any indication, this series will be a barn-burner. The Pandas (17-3) finished with one more win than the T-Birds (16-4), and the teams split a pair of games in Vancouver last month, with both going down to the final moments.

The T-Birds swept UNBC in a play-in series last weekend to run their win streak to nine games, and now head to Edmonton, where the Pandas are unbeaten in 10 games this season and should be well-rested coming off a bye.

Alberta gave up the second fewest points in Canada West this season (56.8 ppg), and will look to contain a high-scoring T-Birds team (72.8 ppg) led by guard Maddison Penn (18.1 ppg, second in conference). After racking up an incredible 39 steals over two games against UNBC, UBC aims to be similarly disruptive of Alberta's offence and its catalyst, senior point guard Maddie Rogers (15.5 ppg. 3.8 assists per game).

Women's basketball quarter-final series schedules:

Thu. 23 UFV   Saskatchewan   6:30 PM CST
  CW Quarter-finals - Game 1
  Victoria   Winnipeg   7:00 PM CST
  CW Quarter-finals - Game 1
  Trinity Western   Regina   7:00 PM CST
  CW Quarter-finals - Game 1
  UBC   Alberta   6:00 PM MST
  CW Quarter-finals - Game 1
Fri. 24 Victoria   Winnipeg   3:00 PM CST
  CW Quarter-finals - Game 2
  UFV   Saskatchewan   6:30 PM CST
  CW Quarter-finals - Game 2
  Trinity Western   Regina   7:00 PM CST
  CW Quarter-finals - Game 2
  UBC   Alberta   6:00 PM MST
  CW Quarter-finals - Game 2
Sat. 25 Victoria   Winnipeg   1:30 PM CST
  CW Quarter-finals - Game 3 (if necessary)
  UFV   Saskatchewan   2:00 PM CST
  CW Quarter-finals - Game 3 (if necessary)
  UBC   Alberta   5:00 PM MST
  CW Quarter-finals - Game 3 (if necessary)
  Trinity Western   Regina   7:00 PM CST
  CW Quarter-finals - Game 3 (if necessary)

Watch every game on Canada West TV.