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UFV Sports Saturday – Basketball and Wrestling

Wrestling: Hildenbrandt’s gold medal, Godinez Gonzalez’s rookie of the year award among highlights at Canada West championships

Brad Hildenbrandt grappled his way to gold and Karla Godinez Gonzalez earned a bronze medal and the Canada West rookie of the year award at the conference wrestling championships in Saskatoon on Saturday.

Hildenbrandt, a sophomore from Surrey, B.C., claimed the men’s heavyweight (120 kg) title in impressive fashion, winning all five of his matches in the dual-meet round-robin format.

Fellow Surrey product Godinez Gonzalez finished third in the highly competitive women’s 51 kg class, and accepted the Canada West female rookie of the year award at the post-tournament banquet on Saturday evening.

Ashley Coupal (women’s 48 kg) and Amtoj Dhaliwal (men’s 82 kg) will also be coming home with hardware, each having won bronze in their respective weight classes.

All four UFV medalists advance to the U Sports national championships, Feb. 24-26 at the University of Winnipeg.

Three other Cascades competed in Saskatoon: Haseeb Javed (men’s 61 kg) won a pair of matches and landed just off the podium in fourth place, Kamil Golowko (men’s 100 kg) took fifth, and Pravi Dhaliwal (women’s 59 kg) finished sixth.

Team-wise, UFV was sixth on both the men’s and women’s sides.

“It was a great tournament for us,” summarized Arjan Bhullar, who co-coaches the Cascades alongside Raj Virdi. “We’ve got a young group, and if you look at our results, we got some great results from our veterans like Brad and Ashley, and from our rookies too. The future looks bright, and the national championships look bright for those individuals as well.”

Hildenbrandt surrendered just five points in his five victories, and only one match – an 8-3 decision in his tourney opener against Jordan Tholl of the Regina Cougars – went the distance. He wrapped up the other four matches early, three by technical superiority and one via pin. It’s the second career Canada West medal for Hildenbrandt, who won silver at 90 kg in 2015.

“Brad’s been our leader throughout the season, and he handled himself like a true professional and set the example for the group this weekend,” Bhullar said. “That (heavyweight) class was very strong – all of the other coaches were confident in their guys. But Brad was very prepared, and he got it done.”

Godinez Gonzalez came within a whisker of upgrading the colour of her medal. In her final match vs. Regina’s Amber Wiebe, she led 3-1 in the late going, but Wiebe picked up two points with two seconds on the clock to level the score 3-3 and win the match – in the event of a tie, the last wrestler to score is the victor. Had Godinez Gonzalez hung on to win, she would have been in a three-way tie for first with Wiebe and Farah Taj of the Alberta Pandas with matching 3-1 records. According to Virdi, the gold would have gone to Godinez Gonzalez based on tiebreaking criteria.

Nevertheless, she carved out some Cascades history, becoming the first UFV female athlete to win a Canada West rookie of the year award. Overall, she’s the second Cascade to be named the conference’s top freshman – Sam Freeman was the men’s basketball rookie of the year in 2008-09.

“Throughout the whole tournament she wrestled great, and it was tremendous seeing it happen,” Virdi enthused.

“The reason she’s had so much success is, she wants to be the best. She trains harder than any other woman I’ve seen in U Sports – she’ll sometimes practice three times in a day because she wants to get better quickly. She started wrestling one year ago, and she’s this good already. I can’t wait to see what she achieves in the future.”

Men’s Basketball: Cascades head to playoffs on winning note, complete sweep of Heat

The University of the Fraser Valley men’s basketball team rode a balanced attack to an 85-78 road win over the UBC Okanagan Heat in their regular-season finale on Saturday evening.

Andrew Morris’s 14 points were a relatively modest game-high for the Cascades, who saw just two others score in double figures: Manny Dulay and Anthony Gilchrist, both with 10 points. But five other players had at least eight points, highlighted by a nine from 6’10” rookie centre Sukhman Sandhu, tying his career high.

The victory boosted the Cascades’ record to 11-9, while the last-place Heat fell to 2-18.

“Today’s game, we didn’t have the same sort of energy we had yesterday unfortunately,” Cascades head coach Adam Friesen said, alluding to his team’s 87-72 victory on Friday in Kelowna. “But we were able to stay within striking distance for the first three quarters and make enough clutch plays down the stretch to seal the win.

“Sukhman by far had his best game of the season, which was great to see. The reason we won this game was our guys off the bench. If not for their energy and hustle tonight, the result probably would have been different.”

Looking ahead to the Canada West playoffs, the Cascades are locked into the No. 10 spot in the conference RPI standings meaning they’ll start on the road, but they can’t book their plane tickets just yet. The identity of their opponent depends on the outcome of the final conference game of the year, Sunday’s clash between the Alberta Golden Bears and the Lethbridge Pronghorns. If the Golden Bears win, the Cascades visit the Brandon Bobcats; if the Pronghorns prevail, UFV will face the Winnipeg Wesmen.

On Saturday, the Heat had the Cascades on their heels early, leading 26-21 at the end of the first quarter and 44-42 at the half. UFV reeled off an 8-0 run midway through the third to seize a 57-51 advantage, their largest lead to that juncture, but UBCO rallied to level the score 60-60 heading to the final frame.

The Cascades nursed a one-possession lead in the dying minutes before Vijay Dhillon inserted the dagger in highlight-reel fashion, draining a contested three-pointer from the left wing with just under a minute left in regulation to give UFV an 80-74 cushion. The visitors closed out the win by going a combined 5-for-6 from the free throw line.

The Cascades overcame a terrific shooting night from UBCO’s Aldrich Berrios – he counted five three-pointers among his game-high 24 points. Triston Matthews added 11 points and a team-best seven boards.

BOUNCE PASSES: Dulay’s U Sports-leading 78 three-pointers in conference play in 2016-17 are tied for the third-most in a single Canada West season. . . . The fifth-year point guard ends the campaign second in the conference assists race with 94, two fewer than Ilarion Bonhomme of the Manitoba Bisons. . . . Of their potential playoff foes, the Cascades split a pair of games in Brandon in December, and have not faced Winnipeg this season.

Women’s Basketball : Claggett, Simovic lead Cascades to big road win over Heat

The University of the Fraser Valley women’s basketball team wrapped up the Canada West regular season with a 67-55 road win over the UBC Okanagan Heat on Saturday, earning the right to host a home playoff series in the process.

By virtue of the victory, the Cascades (12-8) locked up the No. 8 spot in the conference’s RPI standings and will host the No. 9 Calgary Dinos (11-9) in a best-of-three first-round series next weekend at the Envision Athletic Centre.

Taylor Claggett and Sara Simovic had impactful performances on Saturday to pace the Cascades. Claggett, a sophomore power forward, had a huge double-double with 20 points and 13 rebounds, while point guard Simovic racked up 18 points. Simovic’s return to the lineup was a huge boon to the UFV squad – she had missed Friday’s 64-62 loss to UBCO due to a severe case of motion sickness.

Fifth-year guard/forward Kayli Sartori stuffed the stat sheet in her final Canada West regular-season game, posting 10 points, six assists, five rebounds, three steals and a block. As a team, the Cascades dug in defensively, limiting UBCO to 27.8 per cent shooting from the field.

Claire Elliott (16 points), Chloe Kennedy (15) and Emily Kanester (12) scored in double figures for the Heat, who will miss the playoffs with a 4-16 record.

“It was a good bounce-back from us tonight,” Cascades head coach Al Tuchscherer observed. “The girls played with a lot of determination . . . they knew going into the weekend what was at stake here – a home playoff series.”

The Cascades raced out to a 22-13 lead at the end of the first quarter and were up 37-27 at halftime, before gaining some serious separation in the third. UFV outscored the hosts 20-13 in the frame to stretch their advantage to 17 points.

The Heat opened the fourth on a 7-0 run, but Syd Williams knocked down a three on the Cascades’ next possession and UBCO never threatened again.

“It’s a different game when Sara’s there,” Tuchscherer noted afterward. “I don’t think we realized until last night what an impact she was having on our game. Her contribution might not always be obvious in the box score, but we were definitely more organized tonight.

“And that was classic Taylor Claggett tonight. She was banging in and around the rim all night long, got a lot of second-chance opportunities and created some easy ones for herself.”

BOUNCE PASSES: Looking ahead to the Cascades’ first-round playoff match-up, they split a pair of games in Calgary this season, falling 69-59 to the Dinos on Jan. 12 before bouncing back for a 69-60 win the next night. . . . Games are scheduled for Friday (6 p.m.), Saturday (5 p.m.) and Sunday (5 p.m., if necessary) at the EAC. . . . Claggett finished second in Canada West field goal percentage (52.3 per cent) and fifth in rebounding (8.4 per game), while Sartori is top-five in scoring (fifth, 16.4 ppg) and steals (fourth, 3.0 spg).

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