The University of the Fraser Valley men’s basketball team warmed up for the second half of the Canada West conference season with a trio of exhibition games in California last week.
Facing a slate of tough U.S. programs, the Cascades dropped all three games: 84-70 to the Westmont Warriors on Thursday, 77-59 to the Occidental Tigers on Friday, and 88-56 to the Biola Eagles on Saturday. The first two games were part of the Tom Byron Classic tournament hosted by Westmont College in Santa Barbara, Calif., and the final game of the trip was played at Biola’s campus in Los Angeles.
The Cascades (3-5 in conference play, 5-9 overall) return home this week to resume Canada West play against the MacEwan Griffins. Games run Friday (women 6 p.m., men 8 p.m.) and Saturday (women 5 p.m., men 7 p.m.) at the Envision Athletic Centre.
UFV head coach Adam Friesen said it was “a definite priority” on the trip to give extended minutes to his younger players, including rookies Riley Braich, Daniel Adediran and Sukhman Sandu. Another highlight was the opportunity for California products Mark Johnson (Palm Springs) and Anthony Gilchrist (Cathedral City) to play in their home state.
“It was really nice for Mark and Anthony to play in front of their family and friends – it was fun to watch,” Friesen noted.
“And it was great to get the group back on the court and get up and down the floor. We got a lot of people a lot of playing time, and we’re ready to get back into league play.”
The Cascades opened the jaunt against Westmont, the No. 9-ranked team in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA). The Warriors broke the game open with a 20-2 run in the first half, but UFV hung tough and carved the deficit down to seven points (56-49) in the third quarter. Back-to-back three-pointers from Westmont’s Sean Harman turned the momentum back in the hosts’ favour, though, and they held off the Cascades down the stretch.
Gilchrist paced UFV with 12 points and five assists, while Johnson and Manny Dulay registered 11 points apiece. Cory Blau (18 points) and Harman (16) led the Warriors’ attack.
The next day, the Cascades took on Occidental College, an NCAA Div. 3 squad from Los Angeles. They led 33-32 at halftime behind some hot shooting from Vijay Dhillon, who finished with a team-high 15 points on 5-of-6 shooting from beyond the arc, but the Tigers caught fire in the second half, outscoring the Cascades 45-26 the rest of the way. Denver Sparks-Guest posted 11 points for UFV, while Dulay and Andrew Morris scored eight points apiece and Johnson hauled down eight rebounds. Andrew Johnson’s 26-point outburst paced the Tigers.
The Cascades’ third game in three days came against the top-ranked NAIA team in the nation, Biola. The Eagles lived up to their lofty billing – five players scored in double figures, led by Dakari Archer’s 13 points. Dulay’s 15 points (5-for-7 from beyond the arc) were a game-high, and Braich (10 points) and Adediran (nine points) also chipped in offensively.