VANCOUVER – The No. 2-ranked UBC Thunderbirds will host the Canada West women’s basketball Final Four this weekend, with their eye on securing a CIS Final 8 berth. The ‘Birds, fresh off a two-game sweep of Regina Cougars, tip off against the Alberta Pandas on Friday at 6 p.m. PST in one of two semifinal matchups at War Memorial Gymnasium.
The Thunderbirds and Pandas will be joined by Saskatchewan Huskies and Victoria Vikes in Vancouver.
UBC and Saskatchewan tied for the best record in the Canada West’s Pioneer Division, as both finished with 17 wins in 20 regular season outings, while Alberta was 16-4 and Victoria 13-7.
The Thunderbirds swept their quarter-final series last weekend, as did Alberta and Saskatchewan, while Victoria needed three games to defeat Pioneer Division champions Thompson Rivers. Against Regina, UBC won Game 1 75-59 and erased an early 17-point deficit to take Game 2 by a 68-63 margin.
The Pandas faced no difficulties in disposing MacEwan 87-58 and 67-46.
Back in mid-November, Alberta hosted UBC in a two-game matchup. Alberta won the first battle 71-63 while UBC claimed the second game 73-66 after a great joint performance by Kris Young and Harleen Sidhu, who scored 43 points between them.
A balanced starting five and a solid, efficient bench returned UBC to the top of the conference standings this season. Young, a fifth-year guard, won Canada West MVP honours for the second time in her career after averaging 18 points and 6.8 rebounds a game during the regular season. Sidhu, another senior, averaged 13.2 points per game, while point guard Diana Lee dished out 4.3 assists per game.
The ‘Birds have to go against the conference’s best offence as the Pandas average 75.3 points per game and hit three-point baskets at a 36.4 per cent clip, meaning they are always a threat when going up the court. The team’s main offensive weapon is Edmonton native and First Team Canada West All-Star Saskia Van Ginhoven, a fifth-year forward who averaged 16.7 points and 7.7 rebounds per game this season. Van Ginhoven will be assisted by the team’s two talented guards, Jessilyn Fairbanks (11 PPG) and Sally Hillier (10.2 PPG).
UBC and Alberta will meet in the postseason for the fifth time in six years. The two squads played quarter-final series against each other in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013 and Friday’s semifinal will be the 10th playoff game between the teams since February of 2010.
The winner of the UBC-Alberta and Saskatchewan-Victoria games will advance to the Canada West Final on Saturday while the losers will bid for the bronze medal. The top two Canada West teams receive an automatic berth to the CIS Final 8 in Quebec.