Blues star point guard etches her name in history books
Justin Scott // Managing Editor
Photo c/o Northfield Photography
As Ashley dela Cruz Yip dribbled up the court of the Vancouver Island University (VIU) Mariners’ gymnasium on Saturday, Nov. 18, she threw the pass that would put her in the Pacific Western Athletic Association (PACWEST)’s record books.
Crossing the half court, the team captain saw teammate Emma Cunningham running up the right side of the floor and cutting towards the rim. Dela Cruz Yip then threw a beautiful one-handed cross-court bounce pass between three Mariner defenders and found Cunningham perfectly in stride. As Cunningham’s layup bounced off the glass and fell through the net, dela Cruz Yip secured her PACWEST assist number 318, which placed her at the very top of the conference’s all-time assists leaderboard.
As monumental as this play was, the Blues floor general had no idea that with that pass, she would surpass former Douglas College Royal Adelia Paul as the PACWEST’s all-time assist leader. In fact, she didn’t find out about her achievement until a week later, when Head Coach Ramin Sadaghiani broke the news to the team. “Hey, there was a record broken this past weekend,” dela Cruz Yip recalled him announcing. “Ace broke that record of the most assists in the league, ever. That goes back to when the league had more teams and more players, and it’s gone back through all the years. That’s a big accomplishment.”
“It’s not just her ability to find the open player, it’s her ability to create the open player,” – Chris Weimer, Assistant Coach
For those familiar with dela Cruz Yip’s game, the record-breaking news should come as no surprise. For Assistant Coach Chris Weimer – who’s coached dela Cruz Yip’s all four seasons – the development she’s made over the years has been tremendously impressive. “It’s awesome. I’ve been coaching her since she started. It’s her fifth year, I’ve seen her grow as a player, I’ve seen her become a leader,” he said. “Her game’s grown leaps and bounds.” But in Weimer’s eyes distributing the ball isn’t dela Cruz Yip’s greatest skill, facilitation is. “It’s not just her ability to find the open player, it’s her ability to create the open player,” he said.
Being surrounded by some of the best shooters in the conference has also been helpful for dela Cruz Yip’s distribution. “I always know where my shooters are,” she said. “On the starting lineup, we have three really amazing shooters, Sherrie [Errico], Rei [Reiko Ohama], and Emma [Cunningham]. All three I completely trust, so I just know where they are on the floor.” Ohama has the fourth most three-pointers in the PACWEST and Errico and Cunningham are both known throughout the league for their silky- smooth shots.
Dela Cruz Yip also happens to be teammates with last year’s PACWEST Player of the Year and Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) All-Canadian Carmelle M’Bikata. “She’s just a beast, I should be getting five or six assists to Carm a game,” dela Cruz Yip said.
However, as exciting as individual accolades are, dela Cruz Yip and her teammates have their eyes on a far greater prize – the PACWEST gold medal that has eluded the team for two seasons in a row. To achieve this, dela Cruz Yip worked on her game over the offseason, rounding out her skill set. While she’s always been known for her court vision and passing abilities, opposing teams haven’t always treated her as a major scoring threat.
This season, however, things are different. She worked on her pull up jumper and is attacking the rim more. “I’ve focused on being an offensive threat and not just being a playmaker,” she explained. This evolution has made her even more dangerous, but she’s mindful of not allowing it to detract from her distribution. “This year, I’m scoring a lot more, I’m focusing a lot more on being aggressive to the basket and taking my shots, so I just have to find a balance of distributing and being a playmaker, as well as scoring.”
Dela Cruz Yip believes that if the team can improve their defence, this should be their year. “Defence wins championships right, it’s not the other way around. So, if our defence is crap, then we can score as many baskets as we like, and it doesn’t really matter,” she said. And although CapU was known for their defensive prowess last season, it’s true that they haven’t been as dominant on their end of the court this year. However, dela Cruz Yip has no doubt that the team will get back into a defensive groove, and find nothing but success from there. “This is the team, this is the championship team, this is the one,” she said.
Even though a gold medal is the team’s number one priority, dela Cruz Yip isn’t done dropping dimes quite yet. She finished last season with a total of 99 assists and hopes to reach 100 this year. “I’d be going out with a bang,” she said. Whether or not she will reach her goal remains to be seen, but either way, she’ll keep passing and her teammates will keep scoring. “I’m just looking to be the all-time assist leader for the next however long.”