NORTH VANCOUVER — In a figurative sense, when addressing the back-court of the Capilano University women’s basketball team, you might say that its made up some very small glasses of water.
Yet if you’re Blues’ head coach Ramin Sadaghiani, those glasses are so much more than half full, and with the post-season beckoning, it’s clear they were the driving force in leading the North Vancouver school to a PacWest Conference-best 16-2 regular-season record.
“We want to keep it high-tempo up and down the floor and use our size as an advantage,” says Sadaghiani of his trio of starting back-court players, which tops out at 5-foot-7 with Sherri Errico and includes 5-foot-4 players Ashley De La Cruz Yip and Reiko Ohama. As well, 5-foot-5 former W.J. Mouat guard Brittany Wertman is a part of that mix.
“I think it’s become our style at Cap,” the former UBC and Handsworth assistant continues of the trio, each of whom have moved into leading roles this season following the graduation of 5-foot-8 Michelle Errico and 5-foot-3 Jennafer Palma from last season’s PacWest silver medalists. “Our identity has become a quick back court that really gets after it defensively.”
Losing Palma and Michelle Errico to graduation was big both on the floor and within the team’s leadership group, but a committee approach to the same this season saw Cap sprint out to a 13-0 start.
And while complacency reared itself in a 3-2 finish to the regular season, Capilano’s first-place finish netted a bye week to prepare for either Quest or Camosun the following week.
De La Cruz Yip, the former Britannia star, has been huge for Cap this season, her 5.9 assists-per-game best in the regular season by a substantial margin.
Ohama, a Norkam grad who trained in the TRU development league in Kamloops, opened eyes at an ID camp and Sadaghiani says it was impossible to miss how she was able to dominate against the established PacWest players on his team. She finished 10th in the league at 10.8 ppg during the regular season.
And Sherrie Errico, the former Windsor Dukes star who led her team to a B.C. AA title and was named tournament MVP a few seasons back, has brought her great shooting touch to the fore, her 12.6 ppg average seventh best in the league this season.
“Ashley is very unselfish and maybe the best on-the-ball defender in our league,” Sadaghiani says. “We usually match her on the best perimetre player on the other team. Reiko didn’t play many minutes last season but she came in with a completely different confidence this season. Sherrie has great IQ on the court, she’s one of the top shooters in the league and also a very good passer.”
In the front court, the standout has been team scoring leader Carmelle M’Bikata, the 5-foot-11 forward from Abbotsford’s W.J. Mouat Hawks. M’Bikata was third in the league in scoring at 15.1 ppg and sixth in rebounds at 7.1 per contest.
With their bye week, the Blues are working to more closely resemble the team which opened the campaign at 13-0, not the one that finished 3-2 over its final five games.
The losses came to Victoria’s Camosun Chargers, and to New Westminster’s Douglas Royals, the latter finishing in second place in the league standings at 14-4.
The Royals are led by former Holy Cross standout Rachel Beauchamp, whose double-double averages in scoring (15.6) and rebounding (10.8) were both the best in the conference this season.
It could well come to pass that the two teams will have to go through each other to win the PacWest playoff championship.
“Rachel is very tough inside,” admits Sadaghiani. “Big and very strong and incredibly hard to guard inside. And Douglas is just such a tough team. If we played them 10 times, all 10 games would be close.”
Despite it’s 16-2 record, Capilano is the highest PacWest team in the CCAA national rankings. Cap sits at No. 10 while Douglas sits at No. 13.
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