Vikes basketball teams open playoffs on wrong foot

It was a dismal night of playoffs for the University of Victoria Vikes basketball teams on Friday night.

The Vikes men, not to mention their fans, were stunned 79-51 by the Winnipeg Wesmen, in Game 1 of their best-of-three Canada West quarter-final series at McKinnon Gym.

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In Regina, the Vikes women were blasted 82-67 by the Cougars in the first game of their series.

Both Vikes teams return to the hardwood tonight, needing victories to keep their seasons alive. The men’s game tips off at 7 p.m. at McKinnon, while the women are playing at 5 p.m. PST in Regina.

If the Vikes can force third and deciding games, they’ll be played on Sunday.

“We didn’t come to play,” said fifth-year Vikes forward Ryan Erikson, who was about the only Vike able to solve the aggressive Winnipeg defence. “We just didn’t exercise our game plan.

“Winnipeg was the better team tonight.”

Erikson, coming off the bench, scored 20 points, but none of his teammates were able to reach double figures. Besides the lack of scoring, the most glaring numbers on the stats sheet were points off turnovers.

The Wesmen, the fourth-seeded team in the Prairie Division, with a regular season record of 14-8, scored 26 points off turnovers. The Vikes, ranked No. 4 in the country at 19-3, had five.

“We were playing soft, and not energetic like we usually do,” Erikson said, adding he thought it was probably the Vikes worst game of the season. “We weren’t patient on offence, and we weren’t running back on defensive transition.”

Known for the toughest defence in Canada West, the Vikes were unable to stop the Wesmen, who seemed able to run the floor at will, right from the opening whistle.

Shooting 46.9 per cent from the field, compared with 32.1 per cent for Victoria, the Wesmen flew out to an 18-5 lead, and kept up the intensity for 40 solid minutes.

Wesmen top scorers included Jelane Pryce, with 19, Steven Wesley scored 17, and Andrew Cunningham had 10 points.

In the women’s game, the Cougars made it clear why they went into the playoffs riding a 16-game winning streak. They’re simply an extremely strong team, and even when playing without leading scorer Nicole Clarke, they didn’t miss a beat. Across the lineup, the Cougars picked up the slack for Clarke, who’s gone for the season with a stress fracture in her foot.

Graduating forward Sarah Semeniuk was the only Victoria player who seemed to have any luck at the hoop at all. By the end of the first half, the Vikes were a mere 7-for-37 from the field, and trailed the Cougars 46-21.

“We started slow, and they took advantage,” Vikes coach Dani Sinclair said. “They shot the ball well, and had their transition game going.”

After the break, the Vikes were down as much as 29 points, before getting a few back. Semeniuk finished with 19 points, as did Jenny Lewis, but no other players were able to get anything to drop.

“Sarah was tough for us throughout, and Jenny and Nicole [Karstein] gave us a great effort in the second half,” Sinclair said. “We need to put it behind us, and come back at it tomorrow.”

• Vikes swimmer Keegan Zanatta was golden on Friday at the Canadian Interuniversity Sport championships in Toronto. Zanatta won the 400-metre freestyle, after taking bronze in the 200m free on Thursday. In the women’s competition, Stephanie Horner earned bronze in the 200m butterfly.

sepp@timescolonist.com

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