CJ Pentland, CapU Sport Information Director
In an intense, back-and-forth battle between the top two teams in the conference, the Capilano University Blues women’s basketball team dropped an 82-77 decision to the Vancouver Island University Mariners in the PACWEST Championship Final to finish the season with a silver medal.
In a game of runs, it was the #1 seeded VIU who took the early advantage with an eight-point lead midway through the first quarter thanks to their play in the paint. The three-point shooting of #2 CapU pulled them back to tie the game at 18 at the start of the second, but the Mariners responded to close out the first half with a 16-0 run that put them up 40-30 at the half.
“We didn’t particularly come out well in the first half – I don’t know if we were a little bit tight or a bit nervous or what it was – but VIU was well-rested and is a deep team with good coaching,” said head coach Chris Weimer. “Luckily for us they didn’t shoot the ball that well in the first quarter … so I told the girls at halftime we were lucky to be down by 10. I told them we needed to turn things around and start from scratch.”
CapU hit the reset button out of the break, and with a full contingent of Blues fans in attendance to cheer them on, they went on an 11-0 run out of the break that bookended by a pair of Reiko Ohama three-pointers – the second of which put the Blues in front. They ended up outscoring VIU 30-15 in the frame to lead by five heading into the fourth, but a deep three at the third quarter buzzer kick started another Mariners run.
With PACWEST gold and a berth at nationals on the line, the final 10 minutes featured plenty more intensity and high-level basketball. Though with Ohama, a First Team All-Star having to sit the first few minutes due to cramps, the Mariners embarked on an 18-4 lead to start the frame to lead by nine with five minutes to play, but again the Blues didn’t quit – pulling to within two at 75-73 on an Alessia Brutto three-pointer with 45 seconds left.
VIU responded with a three-point play, and despite two free throws by Ohama down the stretch to bring it back to a one-possession game, the Mariners hit their free throws as well to close out the five-point victory.
Ohama was named Player of the Game for Capilano, scoring 21 points on 7-of-15 shooting from the floor and a 5-of-11 mark from three to go along with seven rebounds, six assists, and three steals. Fifth-year Sherrie Errico recorded her second-straight double-double with 16 points, 11 rebounds and five assists, and Brutto had 16 points, seven boards and three steals. Ohama and Errico were named Tournament All-Stars, both for the first time.
The silver medal marks the fourth season in a row that the Blues have won a medal, having won gold last season. It is the first medal for the team under Weimer, who was the assistant for six seasons before becoming head coach this year. Only five players were committed to the 2018-19 season when Weimer took over the team in April, but he brought together a mix of returners and newcomers that carried on the team’s recent success – delivering a 14-4 regular season record and the PACWEST silver.
“We played beyond expectations for this year,” said Weimer. “At the start of the season if you told me we’d be playing for gold I’d have laughed at you. … Looking back on it now we have to keep our heads up; there’s nothing to be disappointed about with how things turned out. We had a great season, and after the Christmas break we were on fire, and we came pretty close.”