VIDEO: MEN'S BASKETBALL HOSTS FRASER VALLEY IN OPENING ROUND OF PLAYOFFS

MEN’S BASKETBALL
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 23, 2011
PLAYOFF PREVIEW

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

VIDEO: MEN'S BASKETBALL HOSTS FRASER VALLEY IN OPENING ROUND OF PLAYOFFS

LANGLEY, British Columbia - The No. 4 Trinity Western men's basketball team (21-3) will host unranked Fraser Valley (10-14) Feb. 24-26 in the opening round of the Canada West playoffs. The winner of the best-of-three series will play in the Canada West Final Four. Games are Thursday, Friday and, if necessary, Saturday. Tip-off for all three games is at 7:00 p.m.

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SPARTANS (21-3)
CIS Ranking:  4th
Canada West Standing: 2nd
Last Week: Manitoba 101-68 W, 103-76 W
Streak: 4 Wins
2009-10 CW Record: 9-9 (5th, Pacific)
2010 CW Playoffs: N/A
2010 CIS Tournament: N/A
Last CW Title: N/A
Last CIS Title: N/A
TWU Lifetime vs Fraser Valley: 9-5

After finishing the season two weeks ago, with a pair of road wins over Manitoba, the Spartans enter this weekend’s best-of-three series with Fraser Valley a fresh and rejuvenated group.

The Spartans go into the playoffs riding a four-game winning streak while also winning 19 of their last 20 games; the only loss being a 101-93 setback against Saskatchewan.

And as they make their return to the Canada West playoffs – having fallen out of post-season contention late in the regular last year – the team that will provide the opposition is about as fitting of a match-up as one could imagine.

Last February, it was indeed the Fraser Valley Cascades who sent Trinity Western spiraling out of a playoff position with a pair of wins over the Spartans in TWU’s second to last weekend of the season. After getting swept by their nearest geographical rival, the Spartans were pushed to the brink of playoff elimination and after a loss to UBC a week later saw a season that started with so much promise end in heartbreak.

But now the Spartans have a chance to even the score. And this time TWU gets to play at home.

In the Spartans two-game weekend series with Fraser Valley this year, played in early December, TWU had the upper hand in both matches, winning by an average of 22 points, and in doing so, racked up a combined 206 points.

In the second game, a 114-89 win on Dec. 4, Spartans forward Jacob Doerksen set the school record for points in a game when he rang up 42 while shooting 64.0 per cent from the field and also collecting a game-high eight rebounds.

Throughout the season – the Spartans most dominant in school history – Trinity Western has been the top team in Canada West on the glass. Led by the aggressive Tyrell Mara, who averaged 8.9 rebounds per game during the regular season, the Spartans out-rebounded the opposition by an average of 14.5 boards per game and will make it difficult on the Cascades in the paint at both ends of the court.

Last year, a big difference in the Spartans games against Fraser Valley, and throughout the whole season, was Trinity Western’s inability to stop the 3-point shot. The Spartans were the worst team in CW in shutting down the 3-ball as the opposition averaged a shooting percentage of 38.6 per cent from beyond the arc and in those two late season losses to UFV, they allowed the Cascades to shoot 47.2 per cent from outside the line.

This year, TWU has done a complete turnaround. In the regular season they were the top team in CW in defending the 3-point shot, with its opponents averaging 31.9 per cent.

This bodes well for the Spartans against a Fraser Valley team that, like last year, relies on the long-ball and led the conference in 3-pointers made this year, averaging 11.6 per game.

But while the Spartans rebounding prowess and their new found ability to defend the long-range shots will no doubt play a huge role in the contest, there’s always the  “X Factor” that is TWU’s Doerksen.

As was evident in his 42-point night earlier this year, sometimes he can just go off. And at the end of the regular season he was in the top 10 in Canada West in scoring (21.6 points per game), rebounds (7.8 per game), field goal percentage (62.1 per cent), 3-pt shooting percentage (42.5 per cent) and offensive rebounds (3.3 per game).

After Doerksen and Mara, the Spartans have been largely led by Calvin Westbrook – who is second on the team in scoring with 14.3 points per game and has one of the most consistent 3-point shots in the conference – and Tristan Smith, who is fifth in CW in assists with 4.4 per game. Off the bench, expect strong contributions from Kyle Coston and Lance Verhoeff, who have split starting duties this year, as well as Tonner Jackson and Daniel Horner.

FRASER VALLEY (10-14)
CIS Ranking: NR
Canada West Standing: 7th
Last Week: Brandon 75-68 W, 102-67 W
Streak: 3 Wins
2009-10 CW Record: 11-7 (3rd, Pacific)
2010 CW Playoffs: 0-2
2010 CIS Tournament: N/A
Last CW Title: N/A
Last CIS Title: N/A
Fraser Valley Lifetime vs TWU: 5-9

With a pair of wins over Brandon in the last weekend of the regular season, the Cascades assured themselves of a playoff spot for the third time in their five years in Canada West.

Now, what the Cascades are trying to do for the first time in their existence at the Canadian university level is win a playoff series.

The first year UFV qualified for the post-season, in 2007-08, the Cascades lost their opening round best-of-three series to UBC in two straight. In their second appearance in the post-season dance, in 2009-2010 they lost to Saskatchewan in two straight. And in both cases, the team they lost to went on to play in the CIS national championship gold medal game: UBC lost to Laval in 2008 and Saskatchewan beat UBC in 2010.

But once again, like their two previous post-season appearances, the Cascades are faced with a David versus Goliath match-up that few anticipate David winning.

In both of their previous playoff matchups, the Cascades were only six games behind their first round foe in the final regular season standings.  This year, UFV finished the season 11 games back of TWU.

In the two meetings between the Spartans and the Cascades, the difference between the two was exposed. Fraser Valley lost by 19 points on Friday and then by 25 points Saturday. Unlike the previous year when the Cascades feasted on TWU via the long-range shot, this time the Spartans had an answer.

In the first game UFV was held to 10 for 26 from beyond the arc and their top 3-point shooters all year, Sam Freeman, Zeon Gray and Joel Friesen were a combined one for nine. And on the second night, on the whole it wasn’t much better as UFV was nine for 22 but the trio of Freeman, Gray and Friesen did improve their numbers as they were six for 14.

But maybe more concerning for the Cascades is that for a team that averaged a league leading 11.6 3-point field goals per game, they weren’t too far off their season average against TWU and still lost by an average of 22 points both nights.

With UFV, it’s a given their 3-point artists must paint a fairly masterful piece just to be in the game. The players who will have to play beyond their regular season numbers this weekend are the big men. Although UFV’s forwards can also shoot the 3-ball as Ryan Fahandeg (43.8 per cent from the perimeter) and James Elliot (43.4 per cent) actually lead the Cascades in percentage, the difficulty will be underneath the hoop.

Competing against TWU’s Jacob Doerksen, Tyrell Mara, Lance Verhoeff and Kyle Coston down low will be the major challenge that awaits the Cascades forwards.

In their two games this year, the Spartans out-rebounded UFV by a combined 85-62. While Elliot leads UFV in boards, averaging 6.0 per game, after that the next forward on the team is Josh Kufske (brother of TWU men’s volleyball redshirt Brad Kufske) who has just 4.1 rebounds per game.

As Elliot will be the key to the Cascades success on the boards, he will also need to be vital in picking up points. During the season he averaged 11.0 points per game will need to keep that up, if not improve, to help even out the battle down low.

-TW-

Last Updated: 2011-02-23
Author: Mark Janzen