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UVic Vikes complete Canada West three-peat in men's basketball

The Vikes now prepare for the 2024 U Sports national championship tournament March 7-10 in Quebec City.
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UVic’s Renoldo Robinson, right, drives to the hoop in a Canada West men’s basketball game earlier this year at Uvic. Robinson scored 33 points Sunday to lead UVic to a 96-91 victory over the the University of Winnipeg Wesmen in the conference championship game in Winnipeg. ADRIAN LAM, TIMES COLONIST

The University of Victoria Vikes accomplished something that hasn’t been done since Billie Jean and Pet Shop Boys were on the radio and Fatal Attraction and the original Top Gun in movie theatres.

The Vikes won their third consecutive ­Canada West men’s ­basketball championship, a feat not recorded in the conference since UVic won seven in a row in the 1980s led by Olympians Eli ­Pasquale and Gerald Kazanowski and other national teamers such as Kelly Dukeshire and Phil Ohl.

“There’s such parity in the league now that it’s hard to win on any given night, so even trying to win one championship is tough,” said UVic head coach Craig Beaucamp, of the three-peat.

U Sports nationally top-ranked UVic, trailing 35-19 after the first quarter and 52-46 at the half, rallied to defeat the University of Winnipeg Wesmen 96-91 in the conference championship game Sunday in the Manitoba capital. The match-up was a reprise of last year’s championship game won by the Vikes at UVic’s CARSA Gym.

“We had guys who stepped up and responded in the fourth quarter,” said Beaucamp.

And it wasn’t just the usual suspects for UVic with two-time Canada West MVP Diego Maffia held to 18 points and conference second-team all-star Elias Ralph to 10.

Renoldo Robinson exploded for 33 points, Shadynn Smid out of Cowichan added 14 points and seven rebounds while Claremont-grad hauled in 10 rebounds and chipped in seven points.

“Let’s be honest, Diego [Maffia] and Eli [Ralph] have carried us offensively this season, but tonight Renoldo [Robinson], Shadynn [Smid] and Ethan [Boag] really responded and made some big plays when we needed them,” said Beaucamp.

When you see that Shadynn and Renoldo are only sophomores, our future looks bright,”

Meanwhile, Beaucamp confirmed that if Canada West continues with its single-venue playoff tournament next season — all post-season games this year were in Winnipeg — that UVic will bid to host it in 2025 to honour Maffia’s fifth and final season in the conference.

The Vikes now prepare for the 2024 U Sports national championship tournament March 7-10 at Université Laval in Quebec City.

Meanwhile, if you had told anybody when the UVic Vikes women’s team was 0-7 that they would turn it around to be one step away from making the U Sports national tournament, they might have thought you daft. But that’s what it came to as the Vikes had a chance to go to nationals with a win in the Canada West bronze-medal game Sunday in Abbotsford before dropping a 62-41 decision to the host University of the Fraser Valley Cascades.

The 10th-seed Vikes went on a surprising playoff run of upsets to get to the Final Four but went an astonishing 1-22 from the field in the first half in the bronze-medal final and were down 18-4 after the first quarter and 39-13 at the half to the Cascades.

“It was a disappointing game in which we had trouble finding our offensive groove. We couldn’t find a basket today,” said UVic head coach Carrie Watts.

Tana Pankratz, playing in her hometown where she went to Yale Secondary, was the only UVic player in double digits with 19 points.

“We battled hard to win the second half and have that,” said Watts.

“We will get over this disappointment and feel proud about how we extended our season. That was invaluable experience for our young group and the future looks bright.”

The U Sports top-ranked University of Saskatchewan Huskies, coached by Canadian 2016 Rio and 2000 Tokyo Olympics head coach Lisa Thomaidis, defeated the Alberta Pandas 73-42 in the conference final.

“When you look at history and tradition, Saskatchewan has it,” said Watts.

The Huskies, Pandas and Cascades advanced to the U Sports national championship tournament March 7-10 at the Saville Centre in Edmonton. Canada West got three berths into nationals this year because Alberta is automatically in as host team.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com