NORTH VANCOUVER, B.C. — For the first time since the 2011-12 season, the Capilano Blues will enter a new season as the defending PacWest BC Champions.
Back in 2010-11, the Blues took home the PacWest BC Championship. Then, the Blues endured a lengthy six-year drought before they would cut down the nets again as provincial champions. They finished on the podium in four of those six years without a title, including back-to-back silver medals in 2015-16 and 2016-17, but they weren’t able to win the big game and secure yet another gold medal.
Like everything else in life, good things come to those who wait.
For the Blues, the six-year wait came to an end in 2017-18, as the Blues turned a 13-5 regular season record into a run through the post-season. After securing the PacWest BC title, the Blues represented the conference at the CCAA Women’s Basketball National Championships.
Capilano University earned a sixth place finish at nationals after going 1-2 over their three games in the event.
Looking ahead at the 2018-19 season, and the Blues will have a different look to them this year. A total of seven first-year players find themselves on the roster, and with the loss of several key contributors from last year’s championship team, there are a few question marks surrounding the Blues.
In the PacWest Championships, the Blues needed to fend off the upset-minded Camosun Chargers in the title game as they launched a second-half comeback that made Capilano University work to the final buzzer.
The Chargers pulled off an upset over the Douglas College Royals in the semi-finals to earn their spot in the title game against the Blues. While Capilano University controlled play for most of the game, the Chargers made them sweat down to the final buzzer. The Blues were outscored 36-26 in the second half, but their early lead held up in crunch time.
Capilano University secured the 75-70 win, and were off to the CCAA National Championships as winners of the PacWest BC Championship. At nationals, the Blues went 1-2 over their three games, picking up a win over the Medicine Hat Rattlers while falling to both the Dawson Blues and Nomades de Montmorency.
When all was said and done, the Blues returned to North Vancouver with a sixth place finish to their name at the 2018 CCAA Women’s Basketball National Championships.
Looking ahead to the 2018-19 season, and the Blues will look considerably different than they did just a season ago. Five of their top six scorers are gone, a list that includes the top two scorers from a season ago and the reigning PacWest BC Tournament MVP.
The likes of Carmelle M’Bikata, who was the aforementioned PacWest BC Tournament MVP and the Blues’ leading scorer a year ago, and Ashley dela Cruz Yip are both gone, taking a ton of production on both ends of the court with them in the process. They were the only two players to average double-digit points per game last season, combining for 25.1 points per contest. There will be opportunities aplenty for players to step up and fill the void this year for Capilano University.
Returning for the Blues is guard Reiko Ohama, who will be the lone fourth-year player on the roster in 2018-19. She is the top returning scorer from last year’s team, and the lone returning starter. Ohama started all 18 regular season games for the Blues, averaging 9.7 points and 3.3 assists per game over the course of the year. She was effective from the floor, shooting 34.0% from the field and 33.0% from three-point range over the season.
Ohama was 10th in the PacWest conference in total minutes played last season with 489. As the lone starter back this season, her minutes should increase as the leader of the Blues. She also had eight double-digit scoring efforts over the course of the season, but faded down the stretch in the regular season, combining for just 12 points over the Blues’ final four games. On offense, the Blues will look for a more consistent scoring effort from Ohama as the season moves along.
The pair of MacKenzie Smith and Simrat Dosanjh came off the bench last season, but both should see an increase in minutes this season due to expanded roles with the program. Smith averaged 5.0 points and 3.1 rebounds while playing an average of 12.4 minutes per contest. Dosanjh posted 4.6 points and 1.0 assists per game in under 12 minutes of playing time per game.
Smith was effective from the floor in limited action, shooting 54.8% for the year.
Heading into the 2018-19 season, the trio of Ohama, Smith, and Dosanjh will be relied heavily on to lead the young Blues roster, both on and off the court. With seven newcomers on the roster and several players stepping into new or expanded roles with the team, growing pains are to be expected.
With the Blues coming off a championship season, they will be the team to beat in 2018-19. Teams will give them their best shot night in and night out as the defending champions, which will force the Blues to be ready for the season from the outset. Given their roster turnover, a step backwards is to be expected this season for Capilano University.
But, as we know, anything is possible in today’s game. Don’t rule anything out until the season is over.
– T. Bennett