Hoop Pandas earn Canada West bronze, advance to nationals in Quebec City

While the Pandas basketball team was unable to win gold at last weekend’s Canada West Final Four in Vancouver, they’ll take a trip to Quebec City for CIS Nationals as an adequate consolation prize.

The Pandas went into the Canada West Final Four on Friday against the top seeded UBC Thunderbirds and struggled, coming out with a 72-59 loss that put them in the bronze medal game against the Victoria Vikes.

Head coach Scott Edwards said the loss to the Thunderbirds boiled down to a lack of execution.

“We just couldn’t score. We didn’t shoot the ball very well, and we had poor percentages, and that impacted our overall performance,” Edwards said. “We couldn’t put any sort of real pressure on them because we just couldn’t hit shots.”

The Pandas were able to hold conference player of the year Kris Young to just six points, but their lack of offensive execution made it difficult to capitalize on the opportunity.

“In terms of our play, I really don’t think we had the urgency you need at this point in the season to execute properly,” Edwards said.

The Pandas were only down 10-9 after the first quarter, but UBC took control after that, as UBC started the quarter on a 5-0 run, and never trailed the rest of the game. Edwards highlighted this quick start from the Thunderbirds as a turning point in the game.

“They got hot, they hit a couple of shots early, and that kind of put us on our heels,” Edwards said. “Conversely, we were ice cold. We had wide-open looks that just weren’t falling.”

This marks a second straight semifinal exit for the Pandas, following last year’s loss to the Fraser Valley Cascades.
The Pandas were able to redeem themselves in the bronze medal game on Saturday against Victoria with a trip to nationals on the line. The Pandas dominated in the paint, out rebounding the Vikes 49-27 in rebounds in what would eventually be a 78-74 victory.

Edwards said that despite the team falling short of their ultimate goal of winning Canada West, he still thought the season was a success.

“I think we had a great deal of success over large parts of the season, especially having to compete with two other really good teams in the conference (UBC and the Saskatchewan Huskies),” he said.

The Pandas now look towards nationals on Thursday, where they’ll kick off their tournament against a familiar foe in the Saskatchewan Huskies.

“We’re really excited that we get to go to nationals again. We didn’t perform that well last year,” Edwards said. “This year we’re a much healthier team, and we’re excited for the opportunity that lies ahead this week.”

After nationals comes the offseason. It’ll be one of transition for the Pandas, as many of their players are in their fifth and final year of eligibility, including first team CIS All-Star Saskia van Ginhoven.

“We’ll have a lot of new faces on the team this upcoming year,” Edwards said. “I think the biggest part of the spring and summer is just getting the new group acclimated to one another.”

Despite the turnover, Edwards remained positive about his outlook for the offseason and beyond.

“It’s going to be a process for (our incoming players), just like it was a process for our current group of graduating players,” Edwards said. “They had to evolve as players and learn how to play at a championship level in Canada West, and it’ll be the same for this incoming group.”

“It was a joy to coach this departing group, and we’ll see what this incoming group will be able to accomplish.”

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