Guards Ryan MacKinnon of Comox, B.C., and Zac Andrus of Vashon Island, Wa., and forward Michael Berg of Burnaby, B.C. suited up for their final games in Victoria, B.C., last weekend and all three played a key role in lifting the Vikes over a streaking Calgary Dinos side to win the best-of-three Canada West quarter-final series in three games. In fact, MacKinnon scored a career high 33 points and added two blocks and eight rebounds in the game that mattered most as UVic outduelled the Dinos to win 90-88 on a last-second shot from Terrell Evans of Las Vegas.
The trio will need to pull on their expertise on Friday night at 4:15 p.m. PST when the University of Fraser Valley Cascades will provide the next test for the Vikes in a game that will send one team to the nationals and will have the other hoping for an at-large wild card berth opportunity. (LIVE VIDEO AND STATS AT HTTP://CANADAWEST.TV)
The No. 5 nationally ranked Vikes (14-4, 2-1 in playoffs) won the Pacific Division and earned a season split with the No. 4 nationally ranked Cascades (13-5, 2-1 in playoffs) that finished in second spot in the Pacific Division.
The Vikes enjoy a 12-4 all-time record against Fraser Valley, but the recent meetings have been close contests.
In 2011-12, UVic lost the first game between the teams on Jan. 13 in Victoria 79-70 despite a 19-point from Berg. But the next night, the Vikes responded at home with a purposes, defeating the Cascades 91-67 in a game that featured a small skirmish and saw the ejection of Cascades junior guard and first-team Canada West all-star Joel Friesen of Abbotsford, B.C. In fact, tempers flared often in the fourth quarter of that contest.
Andrus led the Vikes in that Jan. 14 win with 16 points. On both nights, freshman guard-forward combo Reiner Theil of West Vancouver led the team in rebounds.
These three seniors have seen a feisty Cascades crew in all of their games. In their last 10 meetings, the Vikes have a 7-3 edge, but the teams have split their last six games, with all but one game decided by three points or less.
Experience is a wash. While UVic has three fifth-year seniors and Fraser Valley just one, in 6-6 forward and Winnipeg native Mike James, the Cascades boast five fourth-year seniors for five seniors overall, while the VIkes have two in Humber Hawks transfer guard Michael Acheampong of Toronto and forward Pierce Anderson of Calgary.
One thing that could favour the Vikes – at least on paper – is their backcourt. MacKinnon, Acheampong and Andrus were the top three scorers this season for the Vikes respectively and along with sophomore guard and Victoria native Reese Pribilsky – who netted a season-high 14 points against Fraser Valley in the Jan. 14 win – they have outstanding three-point shooting by committee. As a team, UVic led the Canada West with a 40.2 three-point shooting percentage (133-for-331) and Acheampong (46.7%), MacKinnon (45.8%) and Andrus (44.4%) had the top three three-point shooting percentages in the conference.
“This week we’ve been doing the same things we do every week to prepare,” said Vikes head coach and Canada West coach of the year Craig Beaucamp. “It’s not a matter of what we do this week but more about what we’ve done to date. Both teams are very familiar with each other, as we’re in the same division. We split the two games we played and we expect it to be a very competitive game. They are a talented team.”
Fraser Valley, led by Friesen who averages 16.8 points per game, entered the playoffs on a six-game winning streak and has won eight of its last nine games. However, like the Vikes, they dropped Game 1 of their best-of-three quarter-final series at home, falling 87-78 to the Lethbridge Pronghorns in Abbotsford, B.C. The Cascades won Game 2 74-66 and Game 3 69-68 on a buzzer-beater from Friesen to advance to the Canada West Final Four for the first time in school history. UVic lost Game 1 to Calgary 73-68 but rebounded to win Game 2 90-83 and Game 3 90-88.
One blemish that could be in the VIkes favour is Fraser Valley’s 5-4 record on the roared this season while enjoying a 10-2 record in all games at home including the playoffs. UVic is 7-2 away from McKinnon Gymnasium.
INTERESTING STATS TO WATCH: If the Vikes and Cascades are close, the fourth quarter numbers favour UVic. Fraser Valley has been outscored this season 460-458 in the final 10 minutes while UVic enjoys a 422-400 margin in the fourth quarter… Cascades forward Kyle Grewal of Surrey, B.C., was a monster and tough matchup for the Vikes in both games Jan. 13-14. Grewal led Fraser Valley with a game-high 18 points on Jan. 13 in their 79-70 win and a game-high 21 points in their 91-67 loss to UVic on Jan. 14.
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UVic Vikes: 3 Zac Andrus PG / 6 Ryan MacKinnon G / 4 Michael Acheampong G / 8 Terrell Evans F / 14 Michael Berg F
UFV Cascades: 6 Joel Friesen G / 12 Samuel Freeman G / 7 James York G / 8 Jasper Modet F / 9 Kyle Grewal F
UVic has 12-4 record all-time vs Fraser ValleyUVic has 7-2 edge in VictoriaUVic has a 5-2 edge in Abbotsford0-0 Neutral Site