Foul-shooting woes doom team’s golden aspirations
No disrespect to the other four teams participating, but a gold medal matchup between the Capilano Blues women’s basketball team and the Douglas College Royals was a meeting already preordained before the tournament event started.
The Royals stood as the only team in the Pacific Western Athletic Association (PACWEST) that managed to stymie the Blues’ stifling defence. Although the Blues won two out of their three meetings in the regular season, the Royals have the distinction as the only team that the Blues couldn’t beat by double-digits. They also were the ones who ended the Blues’ hopes of an undefeated season, ending their historic run with a 57-51 victory on Feb. 3.
With much history, pride and merit at stake, the two teams managed to live up to the expectations and put on a heart-stopping game of basketball – it’s just that the ending wasn’t the one the Blues had wanted. In the culmination of the PACWEST 2017 basketball championships, the Royals defeated the Blues 70-63, ending the Blues’ unforgettable season with a silver medal.
The game started off hot as the Blues and the Royals got out of the gates running, exchanging buckets in transition play. However, two early fouls committed by Blues forward and reigning 2017 PACWEST Player of the Year, Carmelle M’Bikata shifted the momentum in the Royals’ favour.
With M’Bikata on the bench, the Royals were able to have their way in the paint. Third year forward and Player of the Year runner up Rachel Beauchamp anchored the Royals in the second quarter, feasting on the boards and getting to the foul line nearly at will. The Blues were paced by the play of fourth year forward Karyn Nelson, whose strong rebounding and interior play kept the game from getting out of hand.
As the Royals tried to pull away and the Blues fought to stay within striking distance, the crux of the game developed: foul-shooting. On one end, the Royals were able to make the most out of their freebies, on the other, the Blues struggled. Soon enough, the Blues’ shooting woes caught up to them and the Royals’ lead ballooned to double digits.
With about three minutes to go at the half, and a 13-point lead that looked larger than it was, Blues guard Reiko Ohama caught fire. The second-year combo guard had a personal eight-point flurry, and supplemented by M’Bikata and Nelson’s rebounding, the Blues managed to cut the lead to six as they head to halftime.
Fortunes turned for the worse in the third period. Not only did the Royals started to strike on all cylinders, they also benefited from a series of questionable calls. In a span of three minutes in the middle of the third period, the Blues were whistled for three travelling calls, a double-dribble violation and a moving screen that led to the invalidation of guard Brittany Wertman’s three-pointer, a bucket that would’ve swung the momentum for the Blues.
Despite questionable, and some borderline unbelievable calls, the Blues still deserved much of the blame. Their foul-shooting woes continued, and their offence – which ran like a well-oiled machine throughout the regular season stagnated. All hope seemed lost as the Royals pushed their lead to 19, but once again, Ohama provided a much-needed spark. The guard hounded the Royals’ ball handlers and kept Blues in the game by constantly pushing the ball in transition.
The decisive fourth and final period started much like the first. Both teams exchanged buckets and defensive stops, with the Royals’ lead fluctuating from five to 11. Midway through the fourth, the Blues finally made a complete run. The lineup of Wertman, Ohama, Nelson, M’Bikata and third-year guard Sherrie Errico put the Royals on edge as their effectiveness playing inside-out helped the Blues cut the lead to three. Despite their efforts, it just wasn’t their night.
Although, the Blues clawed their way to trimming the once-19-point-lead down to three, their ill-fated day on the foul-line pressed on, as struggles to convert on their freebies ultimately cost them the game – and the gold.
The Blues’ dynamic frontcourt duo each finished the game with a double-double, with M’Bikata putting up 16 points and grabbing 16 rebounds, while Nelson scored 12 points and racked up 13 rebounds. Ohama finished with 19 points.
Both M’Bikata and Nelson were selected to the PACWEST Tournament All-Stars.
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