CAPILANO University hosted the Pacwest basketball provincial championships last weekend and both Blues teams ended up playing for bronze with the women claiming the third-place prize while the men finished in fourth.
On the women's side Capilano was involved in a three-team race with the University of Northern British Columbia and Vancouver Island University all season long and it was the Blues who ended up on the outside looking in as UNBC took the prize in a win over VIU in the final.
The Capilano women began their tournament with a relatively easy 84-59 win over Kwantlen on Thursday. Jennafer Palma and Jenna Ralston led the way for the Blues with Palma scoring a team-high 16 points while adding five assists and five steals and Ralston filling the stat sheet with seven points, eight rebounds and nine assists.
That win set up an epic semifinal against VIU. Both teams started slow - it was 8-6 Capilano after the first quarter - before the Blues exploded into the lead. Up 26-9 in the second quarter, it looked like the Blues were going to run away with it but the Mariners clawed all the way back. With seven seconds left in the fourth quarter VIU's Brittany Knievel hit a shot to tie the game 5151. Capilano's last-second effort missed and it was on to overtime.
"We actually got a great look," said head coach Paul Chiarenza. "I thought Hayley Boulier was fouled with two seconds left but the referees decided they weren't going to be the difference, which is fine."
In overtime the Mariners got hot while the Blues went cold, the Island school pulling away to win 59-54 and book their spot in the final.
"I thought our game plan was great against VIU, we jumped out 26-9 on them," Chiarenza said. "It looked like we were going to coast. To their credit they made some shots, battled back, got it to overtime and we just couldn't close the deal."
Knievel set the pace for the Mariners with 17 points and nine rebounds while Ralston again led the way for the Blues with 14 points, 16 rebounds and five assists while rookie Hayley Boulier picked up a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds. There was no faulting Capilano's effort in the loss, said Chiarenza.
"We had that great win against them a couple of weeks ago and we knew it would be hard to duplicate that. The only thing tougher than beating a team is beating a team twice. We sure were ready to play. Our energy level early on was phenomenal. I thought we might just go in there and steamroll them."
The season didn't end on a loss, however, as the Blues rebounded to score a convincing 72-52 win over Camosun to claim bronze.
"I think they wanted to finish on a high note and we were good pretty much the whole way through," said Chiarenza. Ralston, a fifth-year senior, starred in her final game as a Blue with 28 points, five rebounds, three assists and eight steals.
Before the tournament began, Ralston was announced as the league's player of the year. Ralston played her final two seasons of college ball at Capilano after suiting up for the University of Manitoba for three years. She'll leave Capilano as one of the best players in the history of the program, said Chiarenza.
"She definitely cracks the all-Capilano team - which is starting to turn into a pretty good team," he said. "I haven't had a player that complete from start to finish in my 11 years at Cap. She was great offensively, defensively she was a leader. She thinks the game very well and was a leader. She got assists when she needed and scored the ball when we needed her to do it. She had a great sense for what we needed and when we needed it and always seemed to provide it. I'm glad that the league recognized that. Although she did lead the league in scoring a lot of those things she does don't necessarily show up on the stat sheet."
Also earning Pacwest women's awards were Jen Bodnar who was named to the second all-star team and Sutherland grad Boulier who earned a spot on the all-rookie team.
On the men's side Capilano came in to the provincial tournament ranked fifth and had to scrap their way through every game. In the opener the Blues topped fourth-seeded Langara 85-77 in a mini-upset. Trailing 69-62 with six minutes left in the game, the Blues roared into the lead with James Lum scoring 12 points, including three three-pointers, to punctuate a 23-8 scoring run to finish the game. Lum finished the game with 25 points, eight assists and three rebounds while Michael Steele racked up 20 points, including four three-pointers.
Next up was league-leading VIU in semifinal action and the Mariners were too much to handle for the Blues. VIU's Patrick McCarthy scored 20 points and 12 rebounds while teammate Jacob Thom racked up 18 points, nine rebounds and eight assists in a 67-57 win. Lum again led the Blues with 20 points while Steele chipped in 14 points and eight rebounds and Mike Zayonc picked up 13 points and eight rebounds. VIU went on to the final where they lost to second-ranked UNBC.
The bronze medal game of Capilano against Camosun came down to the wire with the teams trading runs, the Chargers eventually grabbing an 80-77 lead with 30 seconds to play. A Lum three-point attempt in the dying seconds missed and after free throws the score was 84-78 for Camosun. Lum scored 27 points and six assists in the contest and was named a tournament all-star. Lum, a second-year point guard, also earned a spot on the Pacwest first all-star team for his play throughout the season.