A stellar season for the Capilano University women's basketball team ended one step away from their ultimate goal on the weekend when the Blues lost in the PacWest championship final to Vancouver Island University.
The silver-medal showing for Capilano - regular season champs in the PacWest league - meant that the Blues did not qualify for the national championship tournament. The PacWest league was only allotted one berth and that will go to the second-seeded VIU Mariners who knocked Capilano off 6555 in the provincial final played Saturday night at Camosun College.
"We're obviously disappointed about the result but we're also proud of the things we did this year," said Capilano head coach Ramin Sadaghiani. "Winning the league is not an easy thing. Finishing silver is nothing to be ashamed of."
Capilano's first-place finish in league play earned them a bye into the provincial semifinals where they faced the Kwantlen University Eagles on Friday night. It didn't take long for the Blues to show why they were the front-runners all season as they jumped out to a 21-5 lead over Kwantlen in the first quarter and never looked back, eventually claiming a 75-57 win. Fifth-year guard Jenn Bodnar led the way with 20 points, seven assists, seven rebounds and four steals while fourth-year forward Alynn McNeilly racked up 24 points and four rebounds.
"We hadn't played in such a long time, we kind of prepped for two weeks so we were really looking forward to that game and getting out on the floor," said Sadaghiani. "I think we just came out really prepared and really hungry to get to the final."
The win put the Blues into Saturday's final with both provincial gold and a trip to the national championships on the line. The game was technically on a neutral site but a large VIU contingent made the trip from Nanaimo to Victoria for the final, turning it into a road game for the Blues. The Mariners led 24-22 following a low-scoring first half and maintained that small gap throughout the second half. The Blues hung around, pulling into a tie with five minutes to go, but VIU never let Capilano put together a big offensive run.
"VIU kind of sticks in a 2-3 zone all game and they've got a lot of size so it's definitely a challenge to put up a lot of points on them," said Sadaghiani. "Every time we'd pull to a tie game they'd go up two or four. We'd close the gap again and they'd go up two or four again. It seemed to be that way all night."
The Mariners were led by tournament MVP Jocelyn Jones who racked up 27 points, including a 13 for 14 performance from the free throw line.
"She's a really athletic player, we had problems guarding her to the rim, keeping her in front of us," said Sadaghiani. "She had a really big second half, some key baskets for them."
Bodnar again shone for the Blues, leading the team in scoring with 16 points while adding three rebounds, two assists, two blocks and four steals.
"She's our fifth-year vet, she played like it was the last tournament of her career for sure," said Sadaghiani. "She left it all out on the floor - I think she picked up seven or eight charges in two games. . . . She was a leader throughout the tournament. I just can't say enough about her. She plays so hard and is such a competitor. She definitely was on top of her game this weekend."
Bodnar and McNeilly were named to the tournament all-star team. Both of them are moving on after this season but the Blues who will be back next year will have some extra motivation after coming so close this season, said Sadaghiani.
"We're looking forward to finishing up our recruiting and getting back on the court and working on our skills this offseason to get ready for next year," he said. "We're going to work hard to put ourselves into position to be PacWest champs again next year."
. . . Capilano's Lauren Seabrook was named to the PacWest first all-star team last week when the league handed out their regular season award. Bodnar earned second team all-star honours while guard Stacey Graham earned a place on the PacWest all-rookie team.
For the Blues men, who lost their playoff opener in the quarterfinals Thursday, forward Daniel Dubois was named to the all-rookie team.