Heating up at the right time

Peter Oshkai (photo contributor)

Peter Oshkai (photo contributor)

Once the playoffs start, regardless of the regular season standings, the team that gets hot at the right time is always the most dangerous. After the Vikes defeated the University of Calgary Dinos two-games-to-none on their home court, the Vikes are practically scalding.

The final game of this past weekend’s best of three series against the Dinos served as a microcosm of both team’s seasons. The Dinos started strong and then completely collapsed, while the Vikes were able to mount a furious comeback and ultimately persevere.

The Dinos ended their season with seven straight losses including the two that came this weekend at the hands of the Vikes. Curiously, their final win of the 2014-15 season came against the Vikes on Jan. 24, the precise moment that the Vikes’ fortunes began to turn.

Following the loss on Jan. 24 in Calgary, the Vikes have rattled off eight straight victories and are now headed to the CW quarterfinals against Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops.

During that stretch of success, and indeed throughout the entire season, the Vikes have leaned on the experience and leadership of fifth-year players Jessica Renfrew and Cassandra Goodis. This weekend was no exception. Renfrew led the Vikes in scoring in both games, scoring 32 in Friday’s game and 23 on Saturday’s while Goodis had 10 steals over the two games.

After handily defeating the Dinos 97-73 in game one of the playoff series, the Vikes were in tough the following night, trailing the Dinos by 14 points at half-time and as many as 21 early in the third quarter. However, Goodis and Renfrew would take over the game, combining for 17 of the 24 third-quarter points for the Vikes. This potent duo slashed the Dinos lead to eight heading into the final stanza.

In the fourth quarter, third year forward Jenna Bugiardini caught fire for the Vikes. Bugiardini scored 14 of her 20 points in the fourth quarter alone, including the go-ahead shot with under a minute to play. Thanks in large part to Bugiardini’s heroics, the Vikes narrowly escaped McKinnon with a 80-78 win and avoided a deciding game three on Sunday.

Looking ahead, the Vikes face a formidable opponent in the TRU Wolfpack. During their regular season, TRU went 18-2 and earned top-seed in CW’s Explorer Division. The Wolfpack average a staggering 50.3 rebounds per game this season, compared with the Vikes 34.3.

This rebounding discrepancy is likely going to become one the keys to this series against TRU as UVic has not been particularly adept at rebounding this season, sitting 15th out of 17 in CW while TRU stands atop CW in this category.

It should be noted that some of these stats may be inflated due to the competitive disparity among some of the teams in the Explorer Division versus the tougher teams in the Pioneer division. Nonetheless, the Wolfpack present a tough challenge for the Vikes as they look to extend their eight-game winning streak.

The Vikes play the TRU Wolfpack Feb. 27–Mar. 1 in Kamloops for the CW Quarterfinals. The winner of the best-of-three series advances to the CW Final Four the following weekend.

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