Brent Mutis, CapU Sport Information & Compliance Officer
Minus their starting point guard and faced with wetting the feet of a handful of new players, Capilano University's women's basketball team earned a win on opening night of the PACWEST season and came away with a weekend split on a Vancouver Island road trip.
The Blues downed Camosun College 82-70 in the opener Friday night but lost Saturday afternoon's affair 87-53 at the hands of Vancouver Island University (VIU).
In Friday's win, five different Blues scorers reached double digits in scoring, led by Mackenzie Smith's 17 points. Camosun kept an up-tempo pace throughout the whole game but Capilano weathered the storm and went 10 deep into the bench on the night.
A skillfully managed fourth quarter was needed from head coach Chris Weimer to secure the win as the Blues led by just three entering the final stanza. The Blues wound up outscoring the Chargers 26-17 in the fourth.
"They (Camosun) play at a very high pace so we practiced that a bit leading up to it but there's only so much you can do in practice; you can't really replicate it exactly," said Weimer. "So I think we had some issues with it but in the end I think we handled it well."
With projected starting point guard Sim Dosanjh sidelined due to an injury from preseason, both Kirsten Abo and Reiko Ohama took turns running the offence and significant minutes off the bench were provided by Martha Melaku, Georgia Nelson and rookie Alanya Davignon.
"I think what it did is it exposed our experience as a team," said Weimer. "We've got some third, fourth, fifth-year players and I think that made a big difference and to be honest, we put some rookies in there too and they handled themselves well."
The opener at Camosun was also a return home for fifth-year forward and Victoria native Emma Cunningham who played three years for the Chargers before transferring to CapU. She saved her best for last Friday, getting nine of her 15 points in the fourth quarter including a 6-for-6 effort from the free-throw line. There was a large section of family and friends cheering her on from the stands.
"It's awesome; it's always great coming back to Victoria, there's so much love here," said Cunningham, who graduated high school from Spectrum. "My family, friends, even girls I coach. It was just super awesome for everyone to come back and see me play one more time."
Another bright light was Melaku who racked up 12 points and seven rebounds off the bench. The 5-foot-8 forward looks to have taken a step forward in her development and Weimer prepared her during the week of practice leading into the weekend to take on increased minutes to start the season.
"I just told her how great she'd been practicing and to be ready to come in and play some pretty heavy minutes and I think she did a great job with those minutes today," said Weimer. "She made some really tough shots, she wasn't making a lot of mistakes. She's only a second-year player, she maybe got eight or nine minutes (a game) last year, I'd like to get her up to 15 or 20 this year which would be a big deal on a team with this much depth."
Though his team would suffer a defeat at VIU on Saturday afternoon, Weimer thinks the win Friday is evidence of the team's grit and is a good sign early in the 2019-20 campaign.
"It was a great experience for them but it was a real grind," said Weimer. "Like I said, you don't want to be on the losing end of those games but it's great to be on the winning end and on top of that, to do it on the road."
Saturday at VIU, a lopsided second quarter was the difference as the Blues were outscored 24-6. Avery Snider had 16 points on 6-of-7 shooting and she grabbed eight rebounds in just 16 minutes of play for the Mariners who are ranked No. 2 in Canada. Ohama had 13 points for the Blues.
Next up for the Blues is Friday's home opener against Langara at CapU's Centre for Sport and Wellness. Tip-off is scheduled for 6 p.m. Friday.