Women’s basketball shock at Provincials
By Davie Wong, Sports Editor
The women opened up the weekend on Friday, having earned their bye to the semifinals by finishing second in the PACWEST. They faced the red-hot hosts, the Capilano Blues. Coming off of a dominating win against the Camosun Chargers the night before, the Blues were looking to upset the Royals to head to the final.
But it would take a lot to displace the team that went on a monstrous 15-0 win streak in the regular season. Both teams came with a full bench of veteran players, each hungry for a National berth before departing the PACWEST. The Royals, led by the PACWEST Women’s Coach of the Year, Courtney Gerwing, started her regulars, just as she has been doing all season, led by second team All-Stars, Nanaya Miki and Rachel Beauchamp.
The Blues also had some firepower in their starting lineup, as first team All-Star Michelle Errico and second team All-Star Carmelle M’Bikata took the floor with their team. No matter the result, the fans in the stands were in for a treat.
The action waited for no one, and both teams got off to an explosive start. Capilano challenged Douglas to a shooting contest in the first quarter, and did they ever lose out. Douglas rained threes on Capilano’s defence the entire quarter, granting them the early lead heading into the second.
Switching tactics, the Royals chose to forgo their outside shooting to challenge the Blues’ defence in a much more physical way. Constantly driving the net, Royals players were able to either get the bucket to go, or get the nod to the free throw line. However, their conversion rate of free throws in the first half of the game was atrocious. Out of the 15 gifted shots, Douglas was only able to make 5 of them count.
This was a huge factor in Capilano’s ability to keep up with Douglas. There were several times where the Royals could have run away with the game had they converted their chances. But despite all of that, the Royals still outplayed the hosts, increasing their lead to a healthy seven points before going into the halftime break.
It wouldn’t seem like it on paper, but the second half is when the Royals had struggled, especially of late. The team had been unable to hold leads in the second half of the game, simply burning out, or having their offence stall. As the team came out in the third, they looked to shake the habits of the past. They did it in a big way by extending their stranglehold on the scoreboard. The physical driving play continued as the Royals forced the Blues into bad positions causing them to foul time and time again.
Going into the fourth, the Royals took two quick baskets to extend their lead to 12 points. For a time, it looked like the game was in the bag, The Douglas team took a collective breath of relief. Meanwhile, the Blues were busy streaking down the court scoring 12 points in a row to tie the game. Caught way off-guard, the Royals were slow to respond. Awakened from their fugue-like state to the sight of a rolling Blues team, the Douglas squad did everything they could to stick with them. It all came down to two foul shots from Nanaya Miki, who had been clutch the entire game. With the crowd on the tips of their toes, Miki sunk both shots to force overtime.
However, momentum is a fickle and fierce beast, as the Royals have learned from their regular season losses. Coming out of the gates to start overtime with the crowd behind them, the Blues grabbed control of the game and never let go. Midway through overtime, a three-pointer by the Blues’ Errico found its way through the hoop, giving them the one-point lead. But a couple of baskets from the Royals put them back in the driver’s seat. An unfortunate foul sent the Blues to the line, when they took back that lead. With the chance to win the game on their next basket, the Royals went all out, perhaps a little too hard, as they ended up turning over the ball and taking another foul to put them down by three. With a few precious seconds left, the Royals called a timeout to gain positioning and plan a desperate three-point play.
It all came down to that last play. Set-up in a spread position to optimize shooter availability, the Royals felt the pressure of time and hurried the ball to their star shooter, Miki. With the game in her fingers, and time dripping away, Miki was forced to take a shot that was well beyond the three-point line. The ball fell short, and the Royals fell with it, losing the game, 72-69.
Despite the loss, several of the Royals still had tremendous score lines. Simran Bir finished with 13 points on the night. Sarah Jorgenson and Miki both picked up double-doubles, with Jorgenson picking up 11 points and 11 boards. However, it was Miki who was the story of the match. She finished with 26 points and 10 rebounds in the heartbreaker.
The loss meant that the Royals were officially out of National contention, which also meant that the third-place game would be Courtney Gerwing’s last as the head coach of the Royals. Starting the same lineup as the day before, coach Gerwing stayed with normality in her final game. However, the Quest Kermodes are not a team to be over looked. Leading their starting lineup was first team All-Star, Miriam Baumann, who was looking to make her final PACWEST game a win.
In an homage to their coach, the Royals executed play to perfection. The team drove the Kermodes, over and over, wearing them thin and drawing fouls when baskets could not be scored. However, much like the day before, the problem was not drawing the fouls, it was converting on them. The first half of the game was plagued with that problem, as the Royals converted only 6 of 12 chances from the foul line.
The first half was also plagued with shooting problems. Bad shots and questionable decisions decimated Douglas’ shot percentage in the first half, and kept the score much closer than it should have been. The teams went into halftime tied at 30.
Coming out of the half, one would have expect both teams to be a little more alive. The Royals came out of the half with some consistency, matching their first half of play for the first time in a long time. They improved upon their free throw shooting, but continued to take bad shots from the field.
Quest were shooting machines in the second half, going nearly 50 per cent from all areas of the court. Although the two teams continued to trade leads, it was Quest who came out of the third with a 2-point lead, 44-42. That lead persisted in the fourth as the Royals continually caught up to the score, only to have the Kermodes push it further. Going into the final 10 seconds of the game, it looked as if the teams were going to overtime.
However, a quick timeout by the Kermode, set up a seemingly obvious play. The ball was supposed to go in to Baumann, who would score her final basket in PACWEST play to seal the win, or miss and go to overtime. However, Baumann had other plans. As the Royals doubled teamed her, expecting the play to go to her, Baumann threw the ball over to the corner, into the waiting arms of the PACWEST Rookie of the Year, Jordin Wilkinson. Left nearly wide open on the side, Wilkinson had all the time she needed to send a three-pointer flying into the hearts of the Royals.
With 6.3 seconds left in the game, Gerwing called her final timeout. Setting up a desperation three-point play for her team, similar to the one yesterday, the team took the court determined to tie the game. Regrettably, due to a miscommunication, the play was botched, resulted in a turnover, and forced the Royals to take a foul on Wilkinson. She made no mistake on the foul shots and sealed the game. With that, the Royals fell, 60-55, finishing fourth in the tournament.
Miki had yet another standout performance, and finished with 20 points and 6 rebounds. She was also named a tournament All-Star.
The loss brings a tragic end to the Royals’ wonderful season. With this year’s hopes of Nationals dashed, the players can only look to next year, where they hope the fortunes may favour them and their new coach.