TWU basketball: Spartans, Cascades set to clash
No team in the country made or attempted more three-point shots this season than the Fraser Valley Cascades.
So the Trinity Western Spartans are aiming to turn their best-of-three Canada West men's basketball playoff series into a battle played with the three-point arc.
"UFV is the top shooting three-point team in Canada," said Spartans coach Scott Allen, on Wednesday afternoon, the eve of the team's series which tips off on Thursday (Feb. 24).
Game two is Friday, and if necessary, the teams would play Saturday. All three are at the Langley Events Centre with a 7 p.m. tip-off.
The Spartans are coming off an impressive season, going 21-3 to finish second in Canada West. The 21 victories were a program high and they are ranked fourth in the country.
Fraser Valley was 10-14 and had to win on the final weekend just to get into the post-season.
"We have to shut down their transition, and make them hit harder shots and have more post play," Allen continued.
The Spartans were tops in defending the three-point shot, allowing opponents to shoot just 31.9 per cent from beyond the arc, so that will be a key.
Fraser Valley, which made 279 of their 733 attempts — both tops in the country — connected at 38.1 per cent. Nearly 43 per cent of the team's points came from the long-ball, so stopping that will be key to the Spartans' chances.
The Spartans, while not afraid to get into a high-scoring back-and-forth affair, will look to establish an inside-outside game to take advantage of their scoring depth and rebounding prowess.
Statistically, the numbers are almost all tilted in favour of the Spartans.
Trinity Western was third in points (94.4), fourth in scoring defence (75.4) and second in scoring margin (+19).
They were also tops in rebounding at both ends of the floor, hauling in 45 rebounds a game.
Trinity Western will look to Jacob Doerksen and his 21.6 points per game (third in Canada West) and 7.8 rebounds per game (eighth).
Calvin Westbrook (14.3 points), Tristan Smith (11 points, 4.4 assists) and Tyrell Mara (11 points, 8.9 rebounds) are the team's other catalysts.
Mara's rebounding puts him fifth in the conference.
Tyrell Mara was fifth in rebounds (8.9)
Fraser Valley is led by a trio of scorers, Joel Friesen (16.6 points), Sam Freeman (14.8) and Zeon Gray (14.2).
In the playoffs for the second time in three seasons under Allen, the coach is not content with just getting to the dance.
"Our goal is win nationals," he said. "It is a lofty goal but we have the personnel to do it.
"Anything less than to win the whole thing would be disappointing."
Should the Spartans advance past Fraser Valley, they would play in the Canada West final four championships next week. And should top-seed UBC (22-2) lose to eighth-place Manitoba (9-15), Trinity Western would host the final four.
The top two teams from Canada West advance to the national championships in Ottawa next month. There is also one wild-card spot available.