Nobody knows what 2016 bears for Vikes basketball, but, after opening game wins for both the women’s and men’s teams, the year was kicked off in grand fashion.
Both the men’s and women’s teams played their opening gambits Jan. 8, with the women winning 73-64 over the Manitoba Bisons while the men outlasted the Bisons in overtime by a score of 85-77.
Winning was the only similarity between the two teams, however: while the men’s performance saw them as thoroughly deserving winners, the women’s team bagged their two points in a manner wholly unconvincing.
Despite leading at the end of the first quarter, the Vikes women were very much second-best throughout most of their game, and at halftime, they only led by a single point against a Manitoba team that were 0-8 thus far in the regular season.
Fortunately for the Vikes, captain Jenna Bugiardini steadied the ship in the second half and led her team to an improved 4-5 record in Canada West play. Bugiardini finished the game with 28 points and 15 rebounds.
While the Vikes were lucky to win considering their insipid play distinctly lacking composure and energy, there is something to be said for winning without playing your best.
“A win’s a win,” said Bugiardini. “That’s the way it always is.”
And though she acknowledged the Vikes had some work ahead of them, Bugiardini was happy to take the two points.
“Yes, there’s lots of things for us to improve on, and we’ll work on that,” the Vikes captain said, “but we got the win so that’s important.”
In the second game of the evening, the Vikes men’s team overcame the Bisons in overtime by a score of 85-77.
The Vikes started the game like a thunderbolt — somewhat fitting, considering the evening’s Nights of Lightning monicker. Forward Grant Sitton was unstoppable in the opening ten minutes, scoring 14 points to give the Vikes a 17-point lead after the first quarter.
But as the Vikes eased off after their explosive start, the Bisons began to grow into the game. The visitors began to lessen the gap between the two teams over the course of play, but the Vikes still led with under half a minute to go.
Finally, with fourteen seconds remaining, the Bisons tied the game for the first time. The Vikes were unable to retake the lead in the subsequent play, and overtime beckoned.
Once there, however, it became clear that only one team was going to leave CARSA with two points and it was the Vikes.
Buoyed by the home fans, the Vikes posted ten points to the Bisons’ two in overtime, with Sitton once again playing a vital role in bringing the Vikes to a 6-3 record and finishing the game with 28 points to his name.
At the time of writing, the Vikes sit just a game behind the league leaders UBC, but Sitton knows that complacency can only hurt the team.
“We [have to] look to our vets,” said Sitton following the game. “They need to bring the tempo every day. They need to step up and let everyone know it’s not just one game every weekend, it’s two.
“We have to win two.”
Unfortunately for Sitton and the men’s team, they were unable to win their second game on Jan. 9, falling by a score of 65-59. The women’s team, however, were able to do the double over Manitoba, winning their second game 86-75.
The Vikes men’s and women’s basketball teams play their next game on Jan. 15 in Edmonton against University of Alberta.