The University of Victoria Vikes women’s basketball team have the honour of hosting and playing in the first-ever playoff games on the new Ken and Kathy Shields Court in the CARSA Performance Gym. This weekend, Feb. 26-28, the Vikes will host the Trinity Western Spartans in the Canada West best-of-three Play-In Series after the Vikes finished fifth in the Pioneer Division (5-11) and the Spartans were seventh (8-12).
“It is exciting to host but our games this past weekend were essentially playoff games,” said Vikes women’s basketball head coach Dani Sinclair whose team needed the Feb. 19-20 sweep of Brandon to secure a spot in the post-season. “Our games against Brandon hopefully give us a sense for what to expect (this weekend) and in some ways got the rust and nerves out. Hosting in CARSA will be exciting though, especially for the larger UVic and Victoria community.”
The Vikes secured their post-season position thanks to their double victories over Brandon and some help from their mainland rivals, the UBC Thunderbirds, who swept Winnipeg. The Spartans, however, helped their playoff hopes earlier in the season after getting a win on the Vikes on Nov. 6 and also beating Winnipeg twice throughout the second half of the season.
“They are a hardworking, up tempo and smart team who haven’t qualified for the playoffs since 2009,” added Sinclair about the Spartans who will have no lack of motivation entering this weekend. “They really have earned this and have had a really good season. They will be an extremely tough team and we will have to just focus on this series one game at a time.”
The Spartans are a relatively young team and their leadership has stemmed from second year Tessa Ratzlaff, third year Kayla Gordon and second year Jessie Brown. Ratzlaff was a huge contributor to the Spartans’ 78-70 win over the Vikes in November as the six-foot forward dropped 31 points in 35 minutes played. Gordon is no stranger to double-digit scoring either as the Prince George native had 35 points in Trinity Western’s Feb. 20 win over Lethbridge. Brown, named to last season’s CIS All-Rookie team, is the second-highest Spartans scorer, averaging 13.7 points per game including putting up 19 and 13 points on Friday and Saturday, respectively.
“The key is going to be our defence,” emphasized Sinclair. “When we have had been good on defence we have been successful. In that Friday loss to Trinity Western we gave up too many points and post touches.”
The Vikes’ defence has been turning games around for them in the second half of the season but with good defence the team still needs to get on the scoreboard. Those duties have flexed based on need including second-year guard Amira Giannattasio stepping up to score 27 points, including six three-pointers, in Friday’s win over Brandon, while Jenna Krug logged a team-high 19 points in the Saturday win.
“Jenna sees what the team needs and helps,” said Sinclair of Krug’s ability to play multiple roles for the team. “Much like Jenna, Amira can step up and score, too, but she can also be really effective as our distributor. We need players like this to play different roles.”
Giannattasio is peaking at the right time after the 2015 CIS All-Rookie Team member missed two games against Winnipeg, had six weeks off at Christmas and missed a large portion of the fall due to injury. Now back in the mix full time Giannattasio has been able to team up with fellow Hamilton, Ont. native Jenna Bugiardini and fourth-year forward Nicole Karstein to really shape the Vikes line up.
“We can’t get ahead of ourselves,” said Sinclair about the potential of a three-game grind this weekend. “We have to treat it like any other two-game weekend, focus on the first game and take it one game at a time.”
The Vikes and Spartans will go head-to-head on Feb. 26, 27 and 28. The Friday and Saturday games will tip-off at 7:00 p.m., while Sunday’s game, if needed, will take place at 2:00 p.m. All games are in the CARSA Performance Gym, while play-off ticket pricing is in effect. For ticket information visitgovikesgo.com/tickets.
The post-season qualification will also set the stage for the young Vikes who will also be hosting the CIS women’s basketball national championship for the best eight teams in the country next year in March 2016.
Canada West women’s basketball playoffs seeding and schedule:
1. Saskatchewan Huskies (1st Pioneer Division, 18-2)
2. MacEwan Griffins (1st Explorer Division, 17-3)
3. Regina Cougars (2nd Pioneer Division, 17-3)
4. Alberta Pandas (3rd Pioneer Division, 17-3)
5. Thompson Rivers WolfPack (2nd Explorer Division, 15-5)
6. Calgary Dinos (4th Pioneer Division, 15-5)
7. Victoria Vikes (5th Pioneer Division, 9-11)
8. UFV Cascades (3rd Explorer Division, 13-7)
9. UBC Thunderbirds (6th Pioneer Division, 9-11
10. Trinity Western Spartans (7th Pioneer Division, 8-12)
Play-in series (best-of-three)
Friday, February 26
TWU (10) at Victoria (7) / 7:00 PM PST / CW play-in series Game 1
UBC (9) at UFV (8) / 6:00 PM PST / CW play-in series Game 1
Saturday, February 27
TWU (10) at Victoria (7) / 7:00 PM PST / CW play-in series Game 2
UBC (9) at UFV (8) / 6:00 PM PST / CW play-in series Game 2
Sunday, February 28
TWU (10) at Victoria (7) / 2:00 PM PST / CW play-in series Game 3 (if necessary)
UBC (9) at UFV (8) / 2:00 PM PST / CW play-in series Game 3 (if necessary)
Thursday, March 3
TRU (5) at Alberta (4) / 7:00 PM MST / CW quarter-final Game 1
Friday, March 4
UBC (9) OR UFV (8) at Saskatchewan (1) / 6:15 PM CST / CW quarter-final Game 1
TWU (10) OR Victoria (7) at MacEwan (2) / 6:00 PM MST / CW quarter-final Game 1
Calgary (3) at Regina (3) / 7:00 PM CST / CW quarter-final Game 1
TRU (5) at Alberta (4) / 8:00 PM MST / CW quarter-final Game 2
Saturday, March 5
UBC (9) OR UFV (8) at Saskatchewan (1) / 6:15 PM CST / CW quarter-final Game 2
TWU (10) OR Victoria (7) at MacEwan (2) / 5:00 PM MST / CW quarter-final Game 2
Calgary (3) at Regina (3) / 7:00 PM CST / CW quarter-final Game 2
TRU (5) at Alberta (4) / 8:00 PM MST / CW quarter-final Game 3 (if necessary)
Sunday, March 6
UBC (9) OR UFV (8) at Saskatchewan (1) / 6:15 PM CST / CW quarter-final Game 3 (if necessary)
TWU (10) OR Victoria (7) at MacEwan (2) / 2:00 PM MST / CW quarter-final Game 3 (if necessary)
Calgary (3) at Regina (3) / 7:00 PM CST / CW quarter-final Game 3 (if necessary)
Final Four – hosted by highest remaining seed
Friday, March 11
TBD vs. TBD / TIME PM MST / CW Final Four semifinal 1
TBD vs. TBD / TIME PM MST / CW Final Four semifinal 2
Saturday, March 12
Loser semifinal 1 vs. Loser semifinal 2 / TBA / CW bronze medal game
Winner semifinal 1 vs. Winner semifinal 2 / TBA / CW championship game