By Ali Lee, Vikes Communications
(ISN) – VICTORIA, B.C. – This weekend will mark the fourth-straight and 34th overall appearance at the Canada West Final Four for the University of Victoria Vikes men’s basketball program. Led by head coach Craig Beaucamp, in his 12th season, the Vikes men are just one win away from a spot at the CIS Final 8.
In their opening match the CIS No. 7 Vikes will face the Fraser Valley Cascades in the conference semifinal this Friday, Mar. 6 at 4 p.m. Pacific in Saskatoon. The CIS No. 6 Huskies will host the UBC Thunderbirds in the other semifinal at 6 p.m. Pacific. It will be the second time since 2012 the Huskies have hosted the Canada West championship and second in history.
A win on Friday will give the Vikes their third-straight appearance at the CIS Final 8, while the program has yet to win a national title since 1996. Five-time Canada West Coach of the Year Beaucamp will have his work cut out for him as the feisty Cascades are currently at the top of their game finishing first in the Explorers Division (17-3), while sweeping Calgary in two games in their quarter-final series.
The Vikes, who finished second in the Pioneers Division (15-5), conceded one of their five regular season losses to Calgary on the road back in January. In pre-season play the Vikes also dropped the Cascades 71-58 at McKinnon Gym but that was Fraser Valley’s fourth-straight exhibition match up at the time. Regardless of what happened then, both teams have come along way since the beginning of the season.
Recently named Canada West second team all-star Jasper Moedt and third team all-star Kevon Parchment are familiar foes for the Victoria contingent. Moedt, a fifth year, and Parchment, a fourth year were the driving factors behind Fraser Valley’s fourth-straight Final Four appearance. The Cascades’ first trip to the Final Four in 2012 yielded a conference silver medal and an eventual fourth-place finish at CIS nationals, but they’ve suffered semifinal losses each of the last two years en route to fourth place.
For Victoria, last year’s CIS fourth-placed team, have not hoisted the Canada West banner since 2005-06. After losing in the conference final in 2013 and the semifinal in 2011 and 2012, the Vikes will have to go through Fraser Valley and then the winner of UBC and Saskatchewan. More importantly, though, all teams have eyes on a Friday win for a spot at nationals.
Recently named Canada West Outstanding Player of the Year Chris McLaughlin will be the cornerstone of success for this weekend. The fifth year and six-foot-ten forward is known for drawing triple and double teams after posting a 19.8 points per game average and a 10 rebounds per game average through regular season. Though McLaughlin will do well to steer his way through traffic, it may just leave room for the team’s second-highest scorer and fourth-year point guard Marcus Tibbs. The Canada West third team all-star is a regular double-digit scorer for the Vikes but will inevitably be tightly guarded throughout the weekend.
The key for the Vikes will be in the supporting cast including the defensive expertise of fourth yearReiner Theil and the experience of fourth year Mack Roth. In addition, the emerging contributions from rookie Junior Sesay and the consistency of guards Patrick Pilato and Jordan Charles have given the Vikes the depth they need late in the season. Six-foot-seven Hayden Jeune and six-foot-eight Grant Sitton have also started to show spurts of both defensive and scoring contributions.
With the teams competing on neutral territory it will be anybody’s game. Tip off is slated for 4 p.m. Pacific at the PAC in Saskatoon, Sask. The Huskies will host the T-Birds at 6 p.m. Pacific. All games will be broadcast with live video and stats at canadawest.tv.
The CIS National Championship for the country’s top eight teams will be played at Ryerson University in Toronto, Ont. from Mar. 12-15.