Longtime basketball coach Rich Chambers has supplied the pieces for a well-rounded womens basketball team at the University of Victoria, and rookie head coach Dani Sinclair is putting the puzzle together perfectly.
The Vikes had a near-perfect pre-season (eight wins and one loss) and carried that over to Friday nights Canada West season opener, where they routed the UBC-Okanagan Heat 87-69 at McKinnon Gym.
With Chambers absent due to family reasons, Sinclair coached her first regular-season game Friday night, and her Vikes didnt let her down. Led by their dominant backcourt of veterans Debbie Yeboah and Cassandra Goodis, the Vikes offence had a field day with a young Heat team that is in just its second year in Canada West. Yeboah, in her fifth-and-final season, had a game-high 27 points, while Goodis, in her third year out of Penticton, chipped in 11 points and five assists.
Debbie, well, you just come to expect that from her, being in her fifth year. Shes just a fantastic player, Sinclair said, after seeing Yeboah also chip in four assists. And Cassandra is really coming into her own now. Shes a veteran for us now and really leading the way.
The Heat wilted under Yeboahs speed and craftiness as the Winnipeg native took it upon herself to snuff out any thoughts the Heat had of a comeback late in fourth quarter. UBC-Okanagan cut the lead to 10 with four minutes to go, but Yeboah turned around and scored seven straight points.
I was just having fun out there, Yeboah said. And thats something I really want to do this year, is just be relaxed on the court and do my thing and have fun because its my last year and I want to really enjoy it.
Despite being down by as many as 22, the Heat kept firing away and made things a little tough on the more seasoned Vikes. Roslyn Huber, a big forward out of Rutland Secondary in Kelowna, finished with 21 points and a game-high 11 rebounds. Unfortunately for the Heat, Huber fell hard on her ankle after collecting a rebound late in the game and had to be helped off the floor and didnt return.
They finished at the bottom of the league last year, but theyre a different team this year. They have a lot more firepower and are difficult under the boards, Sinclair said. We need to tighten up on our defence [today] and we gave up 20 offensive boards today and well have to be a little better there.
After losing twice to the Vikes in the pre-season, Heat coach Heather Semeniuk knew her team would be in tough against a deep Vikes team.
Theyre just a very good team, Semeniuk said. They run well, they pass well, they shoot well. They have all the components and theyre more athletic than we are so we really have to be on our game to match them, and tonight we werent quite there.
And to lose Roslyn at the end, shes one of our top players, so hopefully she can go [today]. We just have to be better in all areas.
Claremont grad Jessica Renfrew also had a strong game for the Vikes, scoring 17 points, while Prince George native Chelsea McMullen chipped in 13 points and six rebounds.
The two teams will do it all again today at 5 p.m. at McKinnon Gym.
In the mens game that followed, a pair of veterans led UVic to a rather easy
73-48 victory over the Heat.
Toronto native and fifth-year senior Michael Acheampong poured in a game-high 21 points for the Vikes, while Las Vegas product Terrell Evans was one rebound away from a double-double, collecting nine boards to go along with 17 points.
The two play again tonight at 7 p.m.
IN THE PAINT: Heat guard Melissa Irish is a Stellys grad in her fifth year and she chipped in eight points. . . . After todays game, the Vikes gear up to face Fraser Valley next Friday and Saturday in Abbotsford.
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