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Vikes women clinch playoff berth with win

For Chelsea McMullen, it was a perfect Friday night.
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UVic Vikes Chelsea McMullen moves the ball in front of UNBCÍs Emily Kaehn, left, Friday night at McKinnon Gym.

For Chelsea McMullen, it was a perfect Friday night.

Not only did the University of Victoria Vikes senior forward have one of her best games of the Canada West basketball season, it came in her first game against the school from her hometown — Prince George’s University of Northern B.C. Timberwolves.

But most importantly for McMullen, it was win No. 12 for her Vikes, and the 65-48 victory at McKinnon Gym clinched a berth in the Pacific Division playoffs.

“Last year, we missed playoffs, so I’m extremely proud of our team this year to bounce back and make it,” McMullen said, after pouring in a season-high 15 points and adding six rebounds to help the Vikes improve their record to 12-5.

After graduating from Kelly Road Secondary in Prince George, McMullen started her post-secondary basketball career with the Timberwolves, who back then were in the B.C. Colleges Athletic Association. Now, the T-wolves are 6-11 in their first season of CIS hoops.

“I won a provincial [college] championship with that team in my first year, so it was great to see some of the girls again and [head coach] Loralyn [Murdoch],” McMullen said. “So I really wanted to come out and play hard and have a good game and I was able to contribute a lot.”

McMullen says it’s about time UNBC was welcomed by the CIS.

“I’m really happy for them. They have a great school with an awesome gym and great fans, so it’s good to finally see them at this level.”

McMullen and the Vikes were slow out of the gate Friday as the Timberwolves jumped out to a 10-2 lead, but a wake-up call from coach Dani Sinclair and the Vikes were on their way. UVic led 37-29 at the half, but outscored the T-wolves 14-8 in the third quarter to lock it up. Senior guard Debbie Yeboah led the Vikes with 19 points, while Jessica Renfrew added nine.

With five games to play, the fourth-place Vikes are 12 points up on the fifth-place Timberwolves, eliminating UNBC from the playoff race.

“It’s nice to know you’re in the playoffs, but we know our job is not done,” Sinclair said. “We want to finish as high as we can and you always want to go into the playoffs playing well so there’s more work to be done.”

Sinclair had no problem giving McMullen more minutes than usual against some familiar faces.

“I wanted to give her that opportunity, and she ended up sparking us and playing really well, so we thought we would just go with the flow and it worked out.”

Langley native Jennifer Bruce led the way for UNBC with 19 points. Fifth-year UNBC forward Kady Dandeneau, who hails from Pender Island and attended Stelly’s Secondary, finished with six points and six rebounds.

In the men’s game, the second-place Vikes had little trouble with the sixth-place Timberwolves, even without their absent head coach. With Craig Beaucamp at home with the flu, UVic had a monster second quarter to pave the way to a 89-80 victory.

The Vikes tandem of Terrell Evens and Michael Acheampong were unstoppable, pouring in 29 and 24 points, respectively, to help the Vikes improve to 12-5. The T-wolves, led by Sam Raphael’s 15 points, drop to 6-12. Former Mount Doug Ram Francis Rowe added another 13 points for UNBC.

The Vikes and Timberwolves will go at it again today at McKinnon Gym. The women’s game tips off at 5 p.m., followed by the men’s game at 7 p.m.

FREE THROWS: Fourth-year UNBC forward Emily Kaehn is the daughter of former UVic star and recent UVic Sports Hall of Fame inductee Leslie Kaehn (Godfrey). It was the younger Kaehn’s first visit to McKinnon Gym, and she even wears jersey No. 13, just like mom did in her playing days.

bdrewry@timescolonist.com