Women Close at Playoffs
The 2008/09 season was a wild ride for women’s basketball at UBC O, yet the Heat persevered to a position in the provincial playoffs. And while they were cut short at the tourney, the girls still have a lot to be proud of for a season that was, if anything, a gauntlet of untimely injuries, illness, and repetition.
The Heat began the effort with a late start in November after extensive exhibition which saw the girls in action from September through October. Though the Heat were unable to upset any of their CIS competitors, that was never the focus. The experience gained from such matches allowed Head Coach Heather Semeniuk and the roster to formulate a season plan.
That strategy died however with the start of the regular season as the injury bug took its first swipe at the Heat’s season. In the Heat’s first weekend against the Camosun College Chargers, 5th-year guard Kim Whelpton aggravated a previously torn hamstring, while fellow guard Bailey Radley would succumb to ailments as well. The unfortunate injuries would foreshadow the Heat’s season, while also throwing a wrench in the works of Semeniuk’s early-season plans. The Heat would drop both games to the Chargers, playing in a home-and-home format which saw each teams face each other for only one weekend in the regular season. The Heat then regrouped the following weekend for a 2-0 effort against the Kwantlen Eagles before a 62-53 loss to the UNBC Timberwolves – the lone exception to the home-and-home rules – would close out an unusually brief first half.
Still, playing only 5 games before the winter break might have seemed like a blessing to the Heat, who at times only dressed 10 out of 14 players due to injury or illness. With such a revolving roster it was hard for the Heat to create cohesion in a difficult league.
“I had my mind on a few things during the preseason, but we were already hurt by the time the season began so already things had changed,” said Semeniuk regarding the early season “The quick first half [of the season] might have been good in some ways because we were never really in good shape; We were never really whole because we were always nursing injuries. It wasn’t that they were over working themselves, or not trying to stay healthy. It was always either an injury or illness one after the other for most of the season. “
The women focused on rest during the winter break, though competition was not neglected as the team made the trip to Camosun for mid-break tournament. There the Heat played a three-game stint against Kwantlen and two teams from Alberta.
January 9th saw the resumption of season play against the Capilano Blues of North Vancouver, and also the start of a long month on the road. Dropping the Friday night match 68-56 the Heat edged the Blues 72-70 the following afternoon, proving that the Heat could compete given good health. The Heat would gain further confidence after they swept the hapless CBC Bearcats the following weekend. A brief pause at home to host the Vancouver Island Mariners saw another split weekend for the Heat, a trend which would carry on for the majority of the season, yet not before two tough losses in Langara (including a loss in O.T).
The road-weary schedule finally came to an end in February, as the Heat returned to play their first home games in almost two months. The reprieve could not have come sooner due to recurrent illness;
“It was great to get off the road in February,” said Semeniuk “The girls loved to be home and I could see and feel how much better it was for them to be sleeping in their own beds, getting more rest before games, and also not sharing all the germs [cold and flu bugs] on the bus. Before that it had got to the point where I could barely talk in the dressing room because 5 or 6 people were coughing.”
The change Semeniuk noted was evident in the women`s first game back. Shining through to a 63-61 victory over UNBC, the Heat`s potential was showcased in one of their best performances of the season. But as the roller-coaster goes, an ensuing upset to Douglas College would bump the Heat from 5th place in the BCCAA. The Heat would rebound the following night and sweep the Quest Kermodes the following weekend to conclude the season. Finishing in 6th-place with a record of 10-8, the Heat now looked towards playoffs. Semeniuk reflects on the season thus far;
``It all came down to mental toughness and consistency, but the girls couldn`t seem to get both going at the same time. It was a very talented team this year but they didn’t really have the opportunity to gel together.”
Moving on to the playoffs the Heat drew 3rd-place Capilano in the quarter-finals, a team that they had proven competitive against in the past. Sticking with a defensive strategy, the Heat executed “beautifully” according to Semeniuk. As a result, the Heat commanded the bullying Blues for much of the game, closing the half with a 6 point lead with a confidence that looked insurmountable. The two teams traded blows with one another in the third quarter, but by the end of the 10 minutes the Heat had extended their lead to 9pts.
The flawless execution of the Heat buckled in the fourth quarter, as sharp offensive plays by the Blues, assisted with lenient calls, rattled the Heat from well beyond the arc time and time again. After two minutes the onslaught had seemingly resulted in a “time-warp” for the Heat, with the Blues tying the game and then pulling away to take the lead. Compounded with a rush of fouls that saw many top Heat players on the bench, the Blues would dig out the comeback with a final score of 82-69.
“It was such a tough loss considering we had played our best for three-quarters of the game,” said Semeniuk “All the girls were ready to play and to do their jobs. We had a few mental lapses in the 4th quarter but we were still scoring. But when Capilano sank 3 three’s in a row they were right back in the game. We knew that the only way Cap was going to beat us was with the threes, and we had defended it well all game. We lost our composure a bit after that. We kept playing hard but the damage was done.”
So in bowing out of the Provincials in 6th place, a difficult season came to a close for the Heat. However the determination and grit showed by the Heat in many of their performances garnered the praise of the league. Graduating guard Kim Whelpton earned a spot a league 2nd-team all-star, while forward Rachelle Briscoe earned great acclaim as the BCCAA Rookie of the Year.
“It’s a great way to graduate for Kim,” said Semeniuk on the awards “She has been the heart and soul of this team for so long. She’s a great leader and we will miss her and Megan [forward Megan Kolman who graduates as well] so much. For Rachelle it’s great to see as well. She’s worked very hard to get better since the beginning of the year and she’s very deserving of [Rookie of the Year].”
As for next year, Semeniuk is unsure at the moment of who will back, though she said many of the players are keen to return. Further emphasis on core training will only bolster their performance in a season which includes an automatic showing at nationals, being hosted by UBC O next spring.
Congratulations women on season well done.
Last reviewed 3/13/2009 3:40:08 PM