Shooting for playoffs

Sports | Lifestyle
Vike Chelsea McMullen breaks away from a pack of University of Northern B.C. Timberwolves on Feb. 1, 2013. — Hugo Wong (Photo)
Vike Chelsea McMullen breaks away from a pack of University of Northern B.C. Timberwolves on Feb. 1, 2013. — Hugo Wong (Photo)

The Vikes women’s basketball team has furthered its fiery start to the new year with a home sweep over the University of Northern B.C. (UNBC) Timberwolves on Feb. 1 and 2.

With a 65–48 win Friday and an 82–66 victory Saturday, there was no warm welcome to Mckinnon Gym for the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) newcomers.

The Vikes began January with a five-game winning streak, but cooled off in Kamloops with a Jan 26. loss to Thompson Rivers University (TRU).

“We were feeling pretty good about our success,” said third-year guard Jessica Renfrew. “Maybe a little bit too good. We came [into the Jan. 26 game] a little bit too relaxed, I think, so it was a big wake-up call for us.”

The win bumped the 12–5 WolfPack ahead of the Vikes in Pacific conference standings to third.

After the loss, Vikes fifth-year guard Debbie Yeboah said, “I think it’s good that [a loss] happened now . . . I think it could be a good learning experience, and as long as we take something away from it, then it could be good for us.”

Coming off a tough shooting night against TRU, hitting just 4–23 from the field, Yeboah got back to her Can-West All-Star ways scoring 19 on 9-15 shooting Feb. 1 and 16 points Feb. 2. The five-foot-six guard also managed to rip down 12 rebounds and dish out 12 assists over the weekend, leading the Vikes in both categories.

“What we’ve been really happy with is, especially since Christmas, [Yeboah] has expanded her game,” said coach Dani Sinclair. “She’s not only scoring for us, but she’s distributing the ball better, [and] she’s rebounding the ball better. She’s been our leading rebounder in a few games, on top of being a leader for us on and off the court.”

With the Feb. 1 and 2 wins, the Vikes still sit in fourth, occupying the final Pacific playoff spot after going 5–1 in January. Yeboah attributes the early-year success to a tough Christmas break.

“We had a lot of hard practices, but good practices,” said Yeboah, “and I think we just put in work and we wanted to make a change.”

Going into the holiday break, the team had lost road games in Lethbridge and Calgary.

“We lost a couple of games we shouldn’t have,” said Yeboah, “so I guess we came [into 2013] with just enough spite and just enough hard work.”

Sinclair agreed the team benefitted from the holiday workouts, saying, “I think the girls have come out with renewed energy after Christmas.” She added, “The first weekend in Winnipeg, we talked about setting the tone for the second half of the season.”

“I think the biggest thing for us is playing as a team and using each and every player’s individual strengths to our advantage,” said Renfrew, who is having a breakout year.

“Jess has come into her own this year,” said Sinclair. “She’s been a top scorer for us, [and] she often matches up with the other team’s best player . . . We’re asking a lot of her, and she’s responded extremely well to all of those challenges.”

With just four regular season games remaining, the Vikes need to carry their momentum into the tail of the season.

“Every game now has huge playoff implications,” said coach Sinclair. “There’s still so much to be determined as far as placement.”

“I think we have a great chance to make playoffs and to host playoffs, even,” said Yeboah. “We just need to keep performing. We can’t have any lapses.”

With 5–13 Mount Royal next up on the schedule on Feb. 8 and 9, the Vikes have a chance to secure a playoff spot before taking on second-place University of British Columbia (UBC) in their final weekend (Feb. 15 and 16) of regular season play.

“We’ve had some really great games,” said Renfrew, “but we can’t ride on our previous successes to carry us through. It’s definitely game-by-game, and we can’t take any win for granted.”