Vikes basketball teams hit the road for Canada West quarter-finals

The University of Victoria Vikes not only have to worry about the player talent that U Sports nationally top-ranked Saskatchewan brings to the floor, but also its brain trust on the bench.

The Huskies and seventh-seed Vikes meet tonight in Saskatoon in the Canada West women’s basketball quarter-finals.

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The Huskies are coached by the ultimate hoops multi-tasker Lisa Thomaidis, who guided Canada to a Tokyo 2020 Olympic berth in the FIBA qualifier this month in Belgium, while in the midst of the Canada West season.

“Lisa is a great coach and has an incredible staff at Saskatchewan that allowed her to pull that off,” said UVic head coach Dani Sinclair.

The two coaches know each other well.

“We both played at McMaster University in Hamilton, at different times, and have Ontario basketball roots,” said Sinclair, who concluded her playing career as a national champion at UVic.

Sinclair knows her Vikes are longshot underdogs tonight against a Huskies program that has been dominant in Canada West the past few years.

“They are a formidable opponent. In a best-of-three, it would be a tall task,” admitted Sinclair.

“But this is a one-game playoff. And in a one-game series, anything can happen.”

The Vikes advanced to the quarter-finals by opening the Canada West playoffs by defeating the University of Regina Cougars 69-49 last weekend on Ken and Kathy Shields Court at CARSA gym.

“If we show up and play hard, we are the kind of team that has a chance against anybody,” said Sinclair.

The Vikes showed that in a competitive 73-68 regular-season loss against the Huskies in Saskatoon in January. But that was followed the next night by a 102-72 blowout victory by Saskatchewan over UVic.

“We ran out of gas the second night,” said Sinclair.

Sinclair said the tale of the glass could tell the tale of the game tonight.

“The Huskies outsize us so rebounding is going to be key,” she said.

“We have to close that gap.”

One way to do that is not to allow offensive UVic rebounds that the Huskies can bring down. You do that by scoring and not allowing rebounds.

“We have to shoot the ball well,” agreed Sinclair.

The other Canada West quarter-final in Saskatoon has UBC meeting Winnipeg. Tonight’s winners advance to a semifinal showdown Friday.

The other women’s bracket is in Calgary, where the host Dinos play the UNBC Timberwolves and Alberta meets Fraser Valley in the quarter-finals tonight, followed by the semifinal Friday.

The Canada West championship game is Feb. 29 at the highest remaining seed.

The fifth-seed UVic Vikes men’s team, which defeated the 12th-seed Brandon Bobcats 88-80 last weekend at CARSA gym, advanced to meet the fourth-seed Manitoba Bisons in the Canada West quarter-finals Saturday in Edmonton. The other side of that bracket features the top-seed Alberta Golden Bears and ninth-seed Lethbridge Pronghorns. The quarter-finals winners meet in a conference semifinal game Sunday in Edmonton.

UVic and Manitoba split their regular-season set 1-1 at CARSA.

“At this point, obviously, every team is good. It will be a competitive game,” said Beaucamp.

A major plus for UVic has been having previously injured forwards Matthew Ellis, Dominick Oliveri and Jason Scully return to the lineup for the playoffs.

“We are built well to play teams on our side of the bracket in Edmonton, which all feature traditional big forwards,” noted Beaucamp.

The UBC Thunderbirds, Fraser Valley Cascades, Calgary Dinos and Saskatchewan Huskies are playing in the other men’s bracket being hosted by the second-seed Dinos in Calgary.

The Canada West championship game is Feb. 29 at the highest remaining seed.

The Canada West champions advance to the U Sports championship tournament March 5-8 at TD Place in Ottawa, where the men’s and women’s national championships are being held concurrently for the first time.

cdheensaw@timescolonsit.com

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