Speed, spacing and shooting could lead Blues to the elusive PACWEST gold medal
Luka Vasic // Contributor
Photo c/o Vancouver Sports Pictures
Despite a 6-2 start to the 2017/18 season, all-star forward Carmelle M’Bikata knows where the Capilano University Blues women’s basketball team and herself need to be by the end of February. “It’s been up and down,” she said of her team’s first eight games. “There’s a chip on our shoulder and we really want to get it done this year, but there’s still a lot of things that we need to improve on.
After an outstanding 16-2 regular season record last year, in the playoffs the Blues fell short of the Pacific Western Athletic Association (PACWEST) gold medal. The second consecutive finals loss has left the Blues with a refreshed motivation and a revamped game plan. Now running a new offence, the team has also rejuvenated their roster with newcomers, including veteran Emma Cunningham.
“This year we have way more shooters than last, [and they’ve] molded well into the offence and what we want to accomplish,” said M’Bikata. The new offense has put athleticism and shooting at the forefront, which has been a welcome change for the entire roster. “Emma had a good weekend, she’s finally hit her sweet spot,” continued M’Bikata, referring to their Jan. 5 and 6 back-to-back wins against the Columbia Bible College Bearcats. “Sam (Dosanjh), our first year, has the highest three-point percentage in the league. Every time we put her in she sparks that energy.”
Though much of this regular season can be viewed as time for putting everything together, the Blues have also focused on the continued improvement and veteran leadership of returning players like M’Bikata and Ashley “Ace” dela Cruz Yip, who this past November became the PACWEST’s all-time assists leader. Both players are leading their team in all the major statistical categories, with M’Bikata averaging 12.5 points per game and 7.6 rebounds per game and dela Cruz Yip leading the team in assists 4.7 per game and steals with a pair per game. “Ace still does what she does best, the assists and defensive intensity,” said M’Bikata. “[We need to] continue with our defensive pressure. We really like our press, and it gives us more energy when we get into it.”
The team’s defence and guard play have arguably been their strongest assets. However, realizing how much better offensively and defensively they are in the half-court rather than in transition, the Blues know where they need to improve most. They’ll be looking to further push the pace of their game and improve their transition scoring. “We’re trying to get more in transition like last year, we need to pick up on that, we need to get more easy baskets,” said M’Bikata.
This past weekend the team had back-to-back contests against the Vancouver Island University Mariners, whom along with the Camosun College Chargers all find themselves in a three-way tie for first place. After losing Friday night’s game with the help of some questionable calls at the end, the Blues stormed back and won 79-51 on Saturday, Jan. 13 to remain tied for first place in the PACWEST.