Image Credit: UBC Thunderbirds/UFV Cascades
(ISN) – NEW WESTMINSTER, BC – Basketball standouts Tommy Nixon (UBC Thunderbirds) and Sarah Wierks (UFV Cascades) were named the Canada West First Stars of the Week after outstanding performances in leading their respective squads to crucial undefeated weekends.
Nixon had the touch last Friday night, scoring a career-high 36 points to steer the Thunderbirds to a 92-77 win over Lethbridge. He delivered an encore performance on the following night with 21 points and nine rebounds to complete the weekend sweep.
Wierks was a dominant inside presence in the Cascades’ two wins over Mount Royal, recording consecutive double-doubles and averaging 22 points, 16 rebounds and four blocks.
Both the Thunderbirds and Cascades are in the middle of battles for playoff positioning. With the wins over the weekend, UBC currently holds on to the seventh and final playoff spot in the men’s Pioneer Division, and UFV enjoys a three-game lead over Mount Royal for the third and last playoff berth in the women’s Explorer Division.
Also honoured this week are UBC Okanagan’s Jim Bell (men’s volleyball), Regina’s Mike Malecha (men’s basketball), Manitoba’s Caleigh Dobie (women’s volleyball) and Calgary’s Iya Gavrilova (women’s hockey).
First Star: #7 Tommy Nixon, UBC (Basketball)
A career-best game was part of an outstanding weekend performance by fifth-year UBC Thunderbirds forward Tommy Nixon against the host Lethbridge Pronghorns.
Nixon took over Friday night’s game, recording a career-high 36 points to propel UBC to a 92-77 win. The Vancouver native was 11-for-13 in field goal shooting, grabbed a team-best 11 rebounds and added five assists. Nixon was also 11-of-14 from the foul line.
The next night, Nixon again led his team to victory, topping the squad in points (21) and rebounds (nine) in a 91-69 triumph over the Pronghorns. Again, he was almost flawless, making five of his six field goal attempts and going 9-for-10 from the free throw line. Nixon also added three steals.
Nixon has moved up to fifth in Canada West scoring with an average of 19 points a game. UBC (5-5) has won four straight Canada West regular season games and will host Brandon this weekend in Vancouver.
Second Star: #4 Jim Bell, UBC Okanagan (Volleyball)
In UBC Okanagan’s two men’s volleyball wins this past weekend, Jim Bell led his team to their fifth and sixth consecutive conference wins in five sets on Friday night and in four sets on Saturday night over the visiting Calgary Dinos.
On Friday night, Bell led his team with 20 kills in the five sets at an impressive .375 rate. He was a force at the net with six blocks tallying 23.5 points for the Heat’s fifth consecutive win.
On Saturday, UBC Okanagan took the Dinos out in four sets and the third-year outside hitter was once again a force in leading his team with 14 kills (.194), four blocks, 18 points and served tough all night posting a service ace.
UBC Okanagan (6-12), now winners of six straight have their first conference matchup with their BC Interior rival Thompson Rivers WolfPack in a feature Thursday night affair in Kelowna. Both squads are currently outside of the playoff picture but are making second half pushes to finish in the top seven. Thompson Rivers has won two straight and are just ahead of the Heat in the standings at 7-11.
Third Star: #8 Mike Malecha, Regina (Basketball)
Mike Malecha came out of virtually nowhere to spark the University of Regina’s men’s basketball team with a pair of huge performances off the bench in the Cougars’ two road victories over Trinity Western over the weekend.
Malecha exploded for 28 points in Friday’s 107-89 win, going 7-for-10 from three-point land and 10-for-14 from the field overall to finish with 28 points – a total which smashed his previous career-high of eight. He continued his hot shooting on Saturday, going 4-for-5 from downtown and finishing with 14 points.
Malecha’s outburst more than doubled his scoring output for the season. He had accumulated a total of 38 points in the 10 Canada West games leading up to the weekend, but scored a total of 42 in the two wins over TWU. He finished the two-game series with a .733 three-point percentage, hitting 11 of his 14 attempts from long range. Malecha also added six rebounds, three assists, and three steals while playing a total of 58 minutes for the Cougars.
The two wins improve Regina’s record to 7-5 on the season as the Cougars sit in fifth place in the Pioneer Division standings. The Cougars are back in action this Friday and Saturday at Saskatchewan.
First Star: #5 Sarah Wierks, UFV (Basketball)
Sarah Wierks was a force of nature in leading the University of the Fraser Valley women’s basketball team to a pair of crucial victories over the Mount Royal Cougars on the weekend.
The 6’2″ centre from Chilliwack, B.C. racked up 21 points, 17 rebounds and four blocks in Friday’s 85-58 triumph, and notched another huge double-double the next night with 23 points and 15 boards in UFV’s 81-67 win. The results enabled the Cascades (6-4) to tighten their grip on third place in the Explorers Division.
It is the second time this season that Wierks has posted 20-plus points and 15-plus rebounds in consecutive games, having also accomplished the feat on November 21-22 versus the Thompson Rivers WolfPack. She currently leads Canada West in rebounding at 13.9 per game, and sits second in scoring with 18.4 points per game.
Wierks also made a major leap up the Canada West all-time rebounding list on the weekend. She is currently in third place with 881 boards collected in her illustrious career, having recently passed Leighann Doan (Calgary Dinos, 1996-2001, 874 rebounds), Trix Kannekens (Baker) (Alberta Pandas, 1976-1981, 871 rebounds) and Kelsey Blair (UBC Thunderbirds, 2002-2007, 852 rebounds).
Second Star: #7 Caleigh Dobie, Manitoba (Volleyball)
The defending CIS women’s volleyball champion Manitoba Bisons swept a road weekend series against the Mount Royal Cougars during the January 9-11 weekend.
Third year libero Caleigh Dobie was one dig away from tying a Bison record for most digs in a match while leading the team on the defensive end with a whopping 50 overall digs, six assists, one service ace and one point scored and starting and playing in all nine sets in two needed wins.
The Bisons won a tight five-setter to begin the weekend and Dobie led the Bisons with 20 digs and added four assists in the match win. The next game, the Winnipeg native had an impressive match-high 30 digs (only one back of Bison match record) with two assists and a service ace and one point scored in a four-set victory.
Manitoba is now seventh in the ultra-competitive Canada West conference with an 8-8 record.
Dobie sits fourth in the conference with 226 digs in 14 matches and third in digs per set at 3.83.
The Bisons will next face the #1 Alberta Pandas (13-3) at home during the January 16-17 weekend with first serve on Friday at 6 p.m. CT and 5 p.m. CT on Saturday.
Third Star: #8 Iya Gavrilova, Calgary (Hockey)
University of Calgary Dinos captain Iya Gavrilova continues to tear up the conference as she added a goal and three assists to her points total on the year. She currently leads Canada West in goals (15) and assists (14) for a total of 29 points, ten more than the next closest player. Her 29 points also lead the entire CIS. Calgary sits in first place in the conference after their two wins over the weekend.
The Dinos returned from the December break with a top 10 matchup against the #8 Saskatchewan Huskies in a battle for first place. On Friday night, the Russian national team member assisted on Calgary’s shorthanded, game-winning goal. She added the helper on the power play goal that followed. On Saturday, Gavrilova assisted on the opening goal of the game and later scored her first of the new year.
The Dinos will play the Mount Royal Cougars at the Scotiabank Saddledome on January 15 and will then host their crosstown rivals the following day at Father David Bauer Arena at 7 p.m. MT.