Mounting pressure means talking tactics

Win or go home. Yes, it’s a clichéd sports phrase and one that many people who are new to sports are often confused by. Do the winners go to someone else’s house? Or do they stay at the gym celebrating their win until the next game provides them an opportunity to lose and go home? Regardless of the logic this phrase possesses, it was one that weighed heavily on the minds of the Blues men’s basketball team as they headed into the final weekend of BCCAA league play against Kwantlen. To make playoffs, they needed to win a single game. Losing both would spell the end.

For players from last year’s team this was a familiar situation, and one that they had not succeeded in. In fact, at this point last season, the team had already collapsed, weighed down by too many egos that had no desire to buy into the team’s philosophy. Not making playoffs had simply been the final crumple of fabric on the ground long after their Hindenburg season had burst into flames. “We had too many guys concerned about stats,” says Lucas Wera, a second year guard. “We got along fine off the court, just not on it.”

“This year is different. We have more people on the same page. Everyone’s high fiving and supporting each other and we all hang out with each other off the court. We bought into the system this year.” Although a group of high-fiving, supportive rascals does seem like a fun group of people to spend time with, the first game of their do-or-die weekend proved that sometimes there is more to basketball than exchanging buttslaps, as the Blues were handed a disastrous 81-76 loss by the Kwantlen Eagles.

The next night was a completely different story, and the Blues did make the playoffs, led by a rainstorm of threes by Lucas Wera who finished with 21. The fact that the Blues could be so terrible on one night and so explosive on the other highlights their major weakness: inconsistency. It will have to be overcome, however, as next they're heading into provincials on March 4 at Vancouver Island University.

Michael Zayonc, a second year forward, explains, saying that “the major problem we have is coming ready to play. We don’t show up ready and then we play like we’re not ready. We’ve been having terrible first quarters. That’s what happened against Kwantlen. When we come out to play we are maybe the best team in the province, but when we don’t it is not good.”

What does bode well for the Blues, however, is their favorable schedule. Because of a complicated system of tie-breaks, the Blues managed to secure the fourth seed in the provincial tournament, matching up in the first round against the relatively easy Douglas College, who they split the season series with. With a win, their next opponent would be the 17-1 University of Northern British Columbia Timberwolves, and the winner of that game would head to the finals. Despite the huge obstacle, first year head coach Jordan Yu seems genuinely excited about the prospect of matching up with the best team in the province.

“I like it first of all because UNBC is not really that good on the road. Secondly, they’re going to a gym they have not played in all year long and a gym we played well in. Also, I think we’ve gotten a lot better taking care of the ball, which hurt us the first time we played them, and we’ve gotten better defensively. After the [first playoff game against] Douglas we’ll have a game under our belts while they have [a first round bye] so they’ll have to deal with their first game jitters.” 

Despite Yu’s belief that UNBC will be thrown off their game in an unfamiliar gym, the Timberwolves looked right at home in the Sportsplex when they cruised to two 30 point drubbings of the Blues earlier this season. On the flipside, Yu’s point does hold water, as UNBC’s only loss came to the poorly ranked Langara Falcons when the two met at Langara.

If it comes to it, Yu doesn’t have to look far for a story to inspire his team should they face top-ranked UNBC. In his second year as a player at Cap, the Blues came into the tournament ranked dead last but Yu ended up leading his team to a provincial championship and winning the MVP. “Basically I am always a firm believer that the further down you are the more advantage you have as a team. You have a chance to say '[screw] it' and play the game how it’s supposed to be played –  loose; everyone’s happy, no pressure. That was the reason we succeeded and that’s what we need to go in with this year.”

Women's Basketball
The women’s playoff picture is very similar. With the fifth seed they will begin the tournament playing the Camosun Chargers, a team who they split the season series with. They are viewed as a favourable match up. “Camosun is well-coached but we are more skilled,” says Tasha Lorenzon, a third year forward. “We are averaging something ridiculous like 18 turnovers a game but if we can take care of the ball we can take advantage of our players’ skills. When it comes down to it we have to be ready to play and we’ll play well when we need to.”

Although this view certainly flies in the face of another old sports cliché that says “hard work beats talent,” the Blues certainly have an abundance of the latter. Multi-faceted Monica Starczynowski is in the top 15 in points, rebounds and assists, and the Blues also boast the league leader in both scoring and rebounding, Jessica Franz, who is averaging 19.27 points and 11.47 rebounds per game.

Considering that she has been the victim of constant double teams from opposing defences, a technique that stops her while leaving one of her teammates open, it is surprising that her assist numbers are not higher, or that passing to her open teammates has not been a strategy previously employed. “I’m not even close to top ... fifty on the assist sheet,” she admits. “If I get the ball it’s going up.” Despite her talents, the NBA’s second-round virgin Tracy McGrady can attest to the fact that one woman shows become very easy to stop during the post-season, and Franz will have to alter her game to become a better distributor for playoff success. “A lot of the defense is usually focused on me, so everyone will need to step up and hit shots.”

The provincial tournament begins at VIU on March 4, with the women facing Camosun at 6 pm and the men following with their game against Douglas at 8 pm. For those die-hard fans, games can be watched live on web cast by going to VIU’s very poorly designed provincials website at and clicking the 2010 Provincial Basketball link.

// Mac Fairbairn
sports editor

Enjoy it? Share this on Facebook


© 2011 The Capilano Courier. phone: 604.984.4949 fax: 604.984.1787 email: