Canada West Women¹s Basketball Final Four Preview

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(ISN) – NEW WESTMINSTER, BC – The UBC Thunderbirds, Saskatchewan Huskies, Alberta Pandas and Victoria Vikes collide this Friday through Saturday, March 6-7 to decide the championship in the 2014-15 Canada West Women’s Basketball Final Four at the War Memorial Gymnasium in Vancouver.

The Valerie Girsberger Trophy will be up for grabs this weekend, starting on Friday when Outstanding Player of the Year Kris Young leads her no.1-seed T-Birds against the visiting Pandas, who come to town playing their best basketball and riding a seven-game winning streaking that extends to the regular season. In the second game, the defending champion Huskies will try to contain the upset-minded Victoria Vikes, who took down no. 2-seed Thompson Rivers in a thrilling three-game quarterfinal series.

Semifinal winners advance to the Gold Medal Game on Saturday, 7:00 pm PST and earn an automatic bid to the 2016 CIS National Championships in Quebec City.

All games will be webcasted live on CanadaWest.TV. Below is the complete schedule and what fans may expect to see this weekend.

Schedule (all times PST):

Friday, March 6
6:00 pm – UBC vs. Alberta
8:00 pm – Saskatchewan vs. Victoria

Saturday, March 7
5:00 pm – Bronze Medal Game
7:00 pm – Gold Medal Game

No. 1-seed UBC Thunderbirds

Head Coach: Deb Huband

Regular season record: 17-3 (1st in Pioneer Division)

Season record vs. Final Four teams: 1-1 vs. Saskatchewan, 1-1 vs. Alberta, 2-0 vs. Victoria

Playoff record: 2-0 over Regina in the quarterfinals

Final CIS Top 10 ranking: #2

2014-15 CW Award Winners: Kris Young (Outstanding Player of the Year)

2014-15 CW All-Stars: Kris Young (First Team), Harleen Sidhu (Second Team)

2014-15 CW All-Rookie Team: None

Points leader: Kris Young (18.0)

Rebounds leader: Harleen Sidhu (6.9)

Assists leader: Diana Lee (4.3)

Steals leader: Kris Young (1.8)

Blocks leader: Harleen Sidhu (1.0)

2013-14 CW Tournament Placing: Lost in quarterfinals

Last CW Title: 2012

VANCOUVER – The UBC Thunderbirds return to the Canada West Final Four for the first time since 2012 in search of the program’s eighth conference title.

Under the guidance head coach Deb Huband (20th season) the UBC Thunderbirds finished first in the Pioneer division with a record of 17-3. The Thunderbirds then dispatched the Regina Cougars in two straight games in the Canada West quarter-final. UBC enters the Final Four on a 14-game winning streak.

For the second time in three seasons Kris Young was named the Canada West Player of the Year. The fifth-year standout finished the regular season averaging 18.0 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 2.8 assists per game. Fellow fifth-year player Harleen Sidhu was named a Canada West Second-Team All-Star. She averaged 13.2 points and 6.9 rebound per game during the regular season. The roster is buoyed by a strong contingent of fourth-year players including Cassandra Knievel, Diana Lee, Stephanie Bell, and Adrienne Parkin.

No. 3-seed Saskatchewan Huskies

Head Coach: Lisa Thomaidis

Regular season record: 17-3 (2nd in Pioneer Division)

Season record vs. Final Four teams: 1-1 vs. UBC, 0-2 vs. Alberta, 2-0 vs. Victoria

Playoff record: 2-0 over Winnipeg in the quarterfinals

Final CIS Top 10 ranking: #3

2014-15 CW Award Winners: None

2014-15 CW All-Stars: Dalyce Emmerson (First Team), Laura Dally (Third Team)

2014-15 CW All-Rookie Team: None

Points leader: Laura Dally (13.6)

Rebounds leader: Dalyce Emmerson (8.8)

Assists leader: Kabree Howard (4.4)

Steals leader: Kelsey Trulsrud (1.5)

Blocks leader: Dalyce Emmerson (1.5)

2013-14 CW Tournament Placing: 1st

Last CW Title: 2014

SASKATOON – For the seventh time in 10 seasons, the University of Saskatchewan Huskies will vie for Canada West glory at the conference Final Four. Saskatchewan will look to defend its title won one season ago.

The Huskies finished second in the Canada West Pioneer Division with a 17-3 record and knocked off the Winnipeg Wesmen in a Canada West quarter-final sweep.

As a team, Saskatchewan allowed opponents to score the least amount of points per game at 54.8 throughout the 2014-15 season.

Shooting guard Laura Dally led the Huskies with 13.6 points per game. She also led the Canada West in the regular season with a 47.2 three-point percentage, while Dalyce Emmerson has averaged 8.8 rebounds per game and a 54 per cent field goal percentage. Both totals sat her fourth in the conference. She added 13.3 points per game for the Huskies. Emmerson was named a Canada West First Team All-Star for her season, while Dally was honoured as a Canada West Third Team All-Star.

This is Saskatchewan’s eighth overall appearance at the Canada West Championship. The Huskies have won three Canada West titles and finished with bronze three times.

No. 4-seed Alberta Pandas

Head Coach: Scott Edwards

Regular season record: 16-4 (3rd in Pioneer Division)

Season record vs. Final Four teams: 1-1 vs. UBC, 2-0 vs. Saskatchewan, 2-0 vs. Victoria

Playoff record: 2-0 over MacEwan in the quarterfinals

Final CIS Top 10 ranking: #5

2014-15 CW Award Winners: Megan Wickstrom (Courage Overcoming Adversity Award)

2014-15 CW All-Stars: Saskia Van Ginhoven (First Team)

2014-15 CW All-Rookie Team: None

Points leader: Saskia Van Ginhoven (16.7)

Rebounds leader: Saskia Van Ginhoven (7.7)

Assists leader: Jessilyn Fairbanks (3.9)

Steals leader: Jessilyn Fairbanks (1.9)

Blocks leader: Megan Vande Kraats (0.6)

2013-14 CW Tournament Placing: 3rd

Last CW Title: N/A

EDMONTON – The University of Alberta Pandas basketball team heads to the Canada West Final Four championship series looking for its first conference title in program history.

The Pandas will open against tournament hosts, the UBC Thunderbirds, on Friday, March 6 in Vancouver. The top two teams from Canada West will advance to the CIS Final 8 championship, March 12-15, at the Université Laval in Quebec City.

The U of A finished the 2014-15 regular season with a 16-4 record, which placed them third in the Canada West Pioneer Division. UBC finished first with a 17-3 record, while Saskatchewan, also with a 17-3 record, finished second. Alberta and UBC split their games in the regular season against each other, with Alberta winning 71-63, and then losing 73-66 with both games in Vancouver.

Alberta earned a seat at the Canada West championship by virtue of a 2-0 best-of-three series sweep over the MacEwan Griffins.

Coming into the playoffs, Alberta is averaging a CIS second-best 75.3 points/game and the Pandas also led the Canada West in field-goal percentage (46.8%), three-point percentage (36.4%) and are the No. 1 free-throw shooting team in the country at 79.7%.

Alberta has had this offensive success with a very deep and talented roster. Eight different players average at least five PPG led by senior forward, and Canada West First Team All-Star Saskia Van Ginhoven with 16.7PPG, as well as a 7.7 rebounds per game. Junior point guard Jessilyn Fairbanks averages 11 points, four assists, three rebounds and two steals per game. Senior guard Sally Hiller averages 10.2 points, three assists and three rebounds per game. Senior forwards Kendra Asleson and Megan Vande Kraats also combine for 16 points and over 12 rebounds a game.

No. 7-seed Victoria Vikes

Head Coach: Dani Sinclair

Regular season record: 13-7 (5th in Pioneer Division)

Season record vs. Final Four teams: 0-2 vs. UBC, 0-2 vs. Saskatchewan, 0-2 vs. Alberta

Playoff record: 2-0 over Calgary in play-in, 2-1 over Thompson Rivers in the quarterfinals

Final CIS Top 10 ranking: N/A

2014-15 CW Award Winners: Amira Giannattasio (Rookie of the Year)

2014-15 CW All-Stars: Cassandra Goodis (Second Team)

2014-15 CW All-Rookie Team: Amira Giannattasio

Points leader: Jessica Renfrew (16.3)

Rebounds leader: Jenna Bugiardini (6.9)

Assists leader: Cassandra Goodis (6.6)

Steals leader: Cassandra Goodis (2.6)

Blocks leader: Nicole Karstein (0.8)

2013-14 CW Tournament Placing: Lost in quarterfinals

Last CW Title: 2000

VICTORIA – The University of Victoria Vikes women’s basketball team will be making their 32ndoverall appearance at the Canada West Final Four, while this is their first appearance since 2007. Dani Sinclair (née Everitt) was a member of the last Victoria women’s basketball team to hang a CIS championship banner in the rafters of McKinnon Gym, back in 2003, and now she is one step closer to doing it again but this time as a coach.

The road to the CIS Final 8 has never been easy but the Victoria Vikes program has a storied tradition when it comes to national championship appearances. With nine CIS banners, eight of which came in the great Kathy Shields’ coaching era (1979-99), Victoria is primed to reviving that championship mentality. What better way than to have a former Vike, former national champion, former All-Canadian and student of Shields to lead the way. Sinclair won’t be alone, though, as she has an experienced duo to help get the job done on the floor.

Fifth years Cassandra Goodis and Jessica Renfrew are a large part of the team’s motivation to continue their playoff push. The pair, who started their rookie season together back in 2010, have yet to make it past the opening round of the post-season and that included playing with former Vikes talents such as Debbie Yeboah, Jane Anholt, Kayla Dykstra and Vanessa Forstbauer.

Point guard Goodis and leading scorer Renfrew average close to 30 minutes played per game, while throughout their two grueling playoff series pushed closer to 40 minutes each. After dropping Calgary in back-to-back games, Feb. 20-21, the Vikes advanced to the quarter-finals, where they battled second-for-second with the Thompson Rivers WolfPack on the road. A Shaylyn Crisp three-pointer with two seconds on the clock sealed the Game 3 win that booked the Vikes their spot at this weekend’s Final Four.

Success so far has been driven by the leadership of Sinclair and experience of Goodis and Renfrew but it wouldn’t be right to miss the acknowledgement of the team’s superb supporting cast. Former CIS All-Rookie team member and third-year Vike Jenna Bugiardini continues to be a double-digit scorer and top rebounder for the team, while high school team mate and this year’s Canada West Rookie of the Year Amira Giannattasio continues to improve with every game, ending her first regular season with an average of 12 points per game. Tack on the distance shooting from Crisp, the always-needed energy spark from Jenna Krug, the strength and height of Nicole Karstein and the Vikes appear to have what it takes to continue their play-off run.

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