Dan Kinvig, UFV Athletics
ABBOTSFORD, B.C. – The University of the Fraser Valley men's basketball team wrapped up a homecourt sweep of the Victoria Vikes on Saturday, pulling away in the third quarter to win 89-79.
The Cascades had taken the first game of the weekend (87-83 on Friday) largely on the strength of an incredible shooting performance by Manny Dulay (36 points, eight three-pointers). The rematch at the Envision Athletic Centre, conversely, was a well-rounded team effort.
Five UFV players scored in double figures, led by Denver Sparks-Guest (19) and Vijay Dhillon (17), and the Cascades out-rebounded the Vikes 50-39 including 18 offensive boards.
The hosts improved to 9-9, good for eighth place in Canada West and moving to the brink of clinching one of the conference's 12 post-season berths. The Vikes, meanwhile, find themselves squarely on the playoff bubble – at 7-11, they're in a three-way tie for 12th with the MacEwan Griffins and Regina Cougars.
Fifth-year players Dhillon and Dulay were honoured in a pregame Senior Night ceremony, and both had significant contingents of family and friends in the stands despite the blizzard which made driving on Abbotsford's streets challenging to say the least.
"It was nice to beat UVic," Dhillon said with a smile, alluding to the fact he spent the first two years of his university career with the Vikes before joining the Cascades for the past three seasons. "And it puts us at .500 which is huge for us moving into the playoffs.
"We played better ball-screen defence tonight, but we were still fouling them a lot and that kind of hurt us. But then again, we were hitting shots and we were sticking to our game plan."
The Cascades led for most of the first half by small margins, and were up 41-38 at the break. Anthony Gilchrist supplied the major highlight, driving baseline and finishing with an emphatic one-handed slam over UVic forward Justin Kinnear late in the second quarter.
The third belonged to the Cascades – they fashioned 10-2 and 12-0 runs in the frame, with Sparks-Guest breaking the game open with three-pointers on three straight possessions. UFV led by as many as 16 and kept the Vikes at bay the rest of the way, maintaining a double-digit lead for most of the fourth.
"We haven't been great this year at figuring out a Plan B," Cascades head coach Adam Friesen said afterward. "We know we're a shooting team, there's no secret about that, but when our three-point shots aren't falling, we've got to be a team that finds ways to keep ourselves in the game and give ourselves a chance to win in other areas.
"We had 18 offensive rebounds today, we lowered our turnovers (from 18 to 10), and our defence was fairly solid for a good part of it. That's what I was most happy about."
Gilchrist (14 points), Andrew Morris (12 points) and Nav Bains (11 points, 11 boards) also hit double figures for the hosts. Kinnear had a huge outing for UVic with 24 points and Scott Kellum scored 17.
Dulay followed his Friday explosion with a modest eight points in the rematch, but he was happy to spend his Senior Night in the role of decoy while padding his Canada West-leading assist total (he averages 4.8 per game) with six more helpers on Saturday.
"Usually seniors would be like, 'OK, it's my night to shine,' but I took the approach of, 'I want to focus on the win,'" Dulay said. "I felt like I had to move the ball because I knew they were going to be extra-aggressive on me, and guys started stepping up – from Denver to Andrew to Mark (Johnson) to Vijay. It was a whole different game from yesterday. Guys were ready to shoot, guys were ready to attack. It was amazing to see."
The Cascades basketball teams wrap up the Canada West regular season on the road next weekend, and the Vikes host the Winnipeg Wesmen.