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Maffia again named Canada West MVP as Vikes prep for playoffs

UVic opens conference tournament Thursday against Brandon
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Diego Maffia and the Vikes will square off against the Brandon Bobcats in the quarter-finals on Thursday. (ADRIAN LAM, TIMES COLONIST)

In becoming back-to-back Canada West men’s basketball MVP, guard Diego Maffia has accomplished something that not even the late legendary two-time Olympian Eli Pasquale was able to do in the University of Victoria back court.

The superlative shooting-guard Maffia was named 2023-24 Canada West player of the year for the second consecutive season on the eve of the conference playoffs in Winnipeg to become the first UVic player to win the award in successive seasons and the first Vikes player to win it twice since 2000 Sydney Olympian Eric Hinrichsen in 1996-97 and 1998-99.

“Just to be mentioned with Hall of Fame players such as that is amazing,” said Maffia, who is also the back-to-back ­conference scoring champion.

UVic head coach Craig Beaucamp said Maffia amazes every time his sneakers touch the court: “Winning two consecutive conference MVPs is an incredible accomplishment and a testament to what Diego does and his importance to us. So much of what we do goes through him.”

The Oak Bay High graduate takes it all in stride.

“Individual awards are not the ultimate goal but they are nice when they happen,” said Maffia.

What is the goal is the first national championship for UVic since Hinrichsen and the 1997 Vikes. The quest begins when the U Sports nationally top-ranked Vikes, the regular-season conference champions and top seed, open the Canada West playoffs today in the quarter-finals against the conference eighth-seed Brandon Bobcats in the tournament being played in Winnipeg. UVic had a first-round bye.

The Bobcats outlasted the ninth-seed University of ­Saskatchewan Huskies 62-55 on Wednesday in the play-in first-round to earn the quarter-final berth today against the Vikes.

“It could turn out to be the last game of the year, so we have to come out and be ready to play,” said Maffia, of the suddenness of a single-knockout format.

Beaucamp described Brandon as a “dynamic offensive team that shoots the three-ball well.”

Aaron Tesfagiorgis of UVic, meanwhile, was named Canada West defensive player of the year to become the first Vike since Reiner Theil in 2013-14 to win the award as best stopper in the conference.

“It’s the defensive side of the ball that wins you games and Aaron sets the pace for us there,” said Beaucamp.

“He drags our guys into the fight every night.”

Beaucamp was named Canada West men’s coach of the year.

Meanwhile, SMUS-grad Makena Anderson was named Canada West women’s basketball rookie of the year. Anderson and the 10th-seed Vikes defeated the seventh-seed University of Lethbridge Pronghorns 54-43 in the opening round of the conference playoffs Wednesday in Abbotsford as Abigail Becker scored 13 points, Anderson 11 and Tana Pankratz and Mimi Sigue nine each as the Vikes won their seventh game in a row and advanced to today’s quarter-finals.

OFF THE RIM: Maffia was named a Canada West first-team men’s all-star and UVic teammate Elias Ralph to the conference second team. Vikes forward Becker from Parksville was named third-team Canada West women’s all-star. Emerging Vikes players Griffin Arnatt and Anderson were named to the respective Canada West men’s and women’s all-rookie teams.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com