KPU Women's Eagles Basketball Finish 4th in the PACWEST

Sun, Mar 3, 2013

(Metro Vancouver) - The Kwantlen Polytechnic University Women’s Basketball team made Eagles history this past weekend at the 2013 Pacific Western Athletic Association (PACWEST) Basketball Championships, as the first KPU basketball team to advance to a bronze medal final. Hosted by Camosun College at the Pacific Institute for Sport Excellence (PISE) in Victoria, the PACWEST Championships featured the top six men’s and women’s teams from within the conference. 

Heading into the championships, the goal for the young team was clear – focus on winning the first game, and then play for a medal. The Eagles qualified for the playoffs as the 5th seed with a 10W-11L record and earned a quarter-final match-up against the 4th seed Quest Kermodes (13W-8L) in the opening game on Thursday, February 28. With a 2-1 regular season record against the Kermodes, the stats were in the Eagles favour.

The first half saw a tight back and forth battle between both teams leading to a 25-25 score after 20 minutes. Coming out of halftime, the Eagles increased their defensive pressure and attacked the basket immediately, giving the Eagles a nine-point lead heading into the 4th quarter. The fourth quarter was much of the same with the Eagles outscoring the Kermodes’ 19 to 12 in the final frame. The Eagles offense scored 39 points opposed to the Kermodes’ 23 points in the second half allowing the Eagles to soar to a 64-48 victory over the Kermodes. 

Player of the game for the Eagles was second-year guard and PACWEST 2nd Team All-Star, Jessica Villadiego (Surrey). Villadiego was the highest scorer for the Eagles, sealing 14 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists in just over thirty-one minutes of playing time. Other top scorers were second-year guardJeanneine Yngreso (Surrey) with 13 points, 6 rebounds and 1 assist, and third-year forward Samantha McPhail (Vancouver) with 12 points and 13 rebounds.

Facing the overall PACWEST number one seed, the Capilano Blues (16W-5L), in the semi-final on Friday night proved the Eagles grit and determination. The Blues led the season record 3-0 against the Eagles but with the prospect of a berth in the gold medal final on the line, and only a six point loss in their last head-to-head league game on February 1st, the Eagles were aware that a semi-final upset was a definite possibility.

The Blues pressed the Eagles from the opening tip-off and established an offensive command of the game by putting 21 points on the scoreboard to the Eagles’ 5 in the first quarter. The Eagles squad was more composed and physically tough in the second quarter and edged past the Blues with a collection of 14-13 points. However, it wasn’t enough to close the gap from the first quarter, and the Eagles headed into the half trailing the Blues by 15 [19-34]. The Blues ran away with the third quarter as well by putting up 29 points on the scoreboard to the Eagles’ 18, and closed the 4th quarter out to win the game 75-57. 

First-year forward Sara Kurath (Abbotsford) was named Eagles player of the game. Kurath came off the bench as the highest scorer for the Eagles, netting 15 points, making 70% of her free-throws (7/10) and adding 11 rebounds.

Saturday’s Bronze medal game against the 3rd seed Douglas College Royals (14W-7L) was an emotionally charged game between the river rivals. With only one medal on the line, both teams came out in the first quarter with a strong defensive presence that gave the Royals a minor lead over the Eagles (13-9) heading into the second quarter. By the half, the Royals had doubled the Eagles with a lead score of 30-15. The Eagles game back in the third quarter, putting up 11 points to the Royals’ 14, but it wasn’t enough to claw back from the lead that the Royals solidified in the first half. The Royals wrapped up the game with a dominant fourth quarter, outscoring the Eagles 24-15 and securing their 68-41 win to claim the Bronze medal.

Player of the game for the Eagles was first-year forward and PACWEST All-Rookie team member,Amber-Lee Kavanagh (Langley). Kavanagh contributed 13 points, 4 rebounds and 1 assist to the Eagles tally.

“Our goal for playoffs was to win our first game and get a chance to play for a medal, “said head coach Dan Nayebzadeh. “We accomplished that goal. I’m really proud of the journey that our team took all year. We had trouble all year stringing wins together and in the end, our inexperience got the best of us.” Already looking ahead to next season, Nayebzadeh knows what his team needs to work on in order to make it back to the post-season in 2014, “Our goal over the summer will be to get [physically] stronger, more explosive and improve our skill set,” he envisioned.