SARNIA, Ontario — Through the first six games of the season, the PacWest BC standings are wide open in both men’s and women’s basketball.
The month of November provided some excitement across the PacWest BC Conference, and it also set things up for a fantastic race towards the CCAA Championships. The standings feature closely contested title races at the top, and several teams are within four points of first-place in the league.
Admittedly, having only six games before the holiday break is a mall sample size. But, it also gave us a good look at what teams have to offer ahead of the 2019 portion of the schedule. From nationally ranked teams to high-scoring talents across , the PacWest BC is home to a bit of everything this season.
If you haven’t been following the league to this point in the year, here’s a recap of what you missed over the month of November to get you set for the New Year in what will undoubtedly be an exciting race towards the PacWest BC crown.
We’ll start on the women’s side of things, where the six other teams are going to be chasing the VIU Mariners, who closed out the first half of the year with a perfect 6-0 record.
The Mariners are one of just two teams from the conference ranked inside the CCAA Top 15 rankings, coming in as the #5 team in Canada. After a perfect first half of the season, one that saw the Mariners excel on both ends of the floor, the Mariners have their sights set on a league title and more when the calendar flips to 2019.
Balance has been the key for the Mariners this season, as they have six different players averaging double-digit points per game. Shayce Johnston is nearly averaging a double-double, averaging 11.8 points and 8.3 rebounds per contest. Danielle Vanbergen is the team’s leading scorer with an average of 12.0 points per contest. Add in her 2.8 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game, and Vanbergen is doing a little bit of everything on both ends of the floor.
On defense, the Mariners have stifled their opponents on a regular basis. They have held each of their opponents to 57 points or fewer, and they have held opposing teams to an average of 47.0 points per contest. On offense, they are averaging 73.8 points per contest, giving them a point differential of +26.8.
Through six games, Vancouver Island University has looked like a well-oiled machine, but there are a few teams who will give them a run for their money in the second half.
One of those teams is the Camosun Chargers, who are the 14th-ranked team in the latest CCAA rankings despite boasting just a 3-3 record. The Chargers enter the break riding a modest two-game winning streak, and will be looking to continue their winning ways in the second half of the season.
The Chargers have one of the better offensive units in the conference, as four of their players are averaging at least 10.0 points per game this season. Camosun is led by Kathryn Candell with an average of 14.7 points per game. Candell has played a strong two-way game through the first six contests of 2018-19, and she is averaging 2.7 rebounds, 3.3 assists, and 2.0 steals per game to go along with her team-high mark in scoring.
The pair of Mia Roberts and Chloe Scaber are averaging 10.3 points apiece for the Chargers.
Not to be outdone, the Douglas College Royals look like the team to give the Mariners their toughest test moving forwards. At 4-2, the Royals sit second in the league standings through six games, but have one of the top players in the conference on their roster who can impact the game on both ends of the court. Rachel Beauchamp put together an impressive first half to the season, one that she will look to build on as the Royals look to crack the CCAA Top 15 rankings and threaten for a league title.
Douglas College won’t blow you away with their offensive production, having averaged just 56.7 points per game as a team through six games. With that said, they have held their opponents to just 55.8 points per game on the defensive end, giving them a positive point differential of 0.9.
The pair of Beauchamp and Sydney Fraess have accounted for 28.0 points per game, roughly half of the team’s production on a nightly basis. Beauchamp leads the team with an average of 16.3 points per game, and she leads the entire league with 14.7 rebounds per contest. Fraess is averaging 11.7 points and 3.0 rebounds per game.
If Douglas College wants to contend with the Mariners atop the conference, they will need others to step up in support of Beauchamp and Fraess. The pair have been stellar to this point in the year, but there’s still a long way to go before the post-season rolls around.
Heading into the second half of the year, the Mariners have a four-point lead on the Royals in the standings, while three teams sit at six points on the year. The race for the PacWest BC women’s championship is wide open, but can anyone overtake the Mariners?
On the men’s side of things, the standings have a similar look to them. The Columbia Bible College Bearcats are at the bottom of the standings and are still looking for their first win of the season. The Mariners are tied atop the standings with the Capilano Blues, while the reigning CCAA silver medalists from Douglas College are just two points out of first place.
In total, four teams are within four points of top spot in the conference after six games, but the Blues and Mariners have a leg up on their competition heading into the New Year.
While they aren’t in first place, the biggest surprise on the men’s side of things may be the play of the Royals from Douglas College. Last season, they won their first PacWest BC title in 10 years to punch their ticket to the CCAA Championships. From there, they continued their winning ways and advanced to the National Championship game. While they would fall to the Seneca Sting, a silver medal was something to be proud of at year’s end.
Fast forward to this season, and the Royals looked considerably different from what they did just one season ago. A long list of players were gone from last year’s team, a list that includes Grant Campbell, the all-time leading scorer in the PacWest. Just three players who played significant minutes last year were back with the team, thus putting several new faces into important roles from the start of the 2018-19 season.
While some growing pains were to be expected, Head Coach Joe Enevoldson has his team playing at a high clip this season and they are right in the thick of the PacWest title race. Newcomer Courtney Anderson has given the Royals a spark on offense, leading the team with an average of 21.7 points per game on 47.3% shooting from the floor. The return of Josiah Mastandrea (11.7 ppg) has given the team a bit of a familiar feel to it this season, but the newcomers have definitely taken on a starring role from game one.
The most impressive stat from the first half of the season for Douglas College may very well be the shooting percentage of forward Shane Toporowski. He has missed just one field goal attempt through six games, going 25-of-26 (96.2%) from the floor. In his six games, he has three games with double-digit points and is averaging 9.2 points per game.
Despite the play of the Royals early on, they are still chasing both the Mariners and Blues for the top spot in the conference. Last year, Douglas College topped VIU in the PacWest BC title game to punch their ticket to the CCAA Championships. You can bet that the Mariners have their sights set on some redemption this time around.
At 5-1, the Mariners are tied atop the standings with Capilano heading into the second half of the season. With the graduation of Usama Zaid from last year’s team, VIU has turned to a pair of veterans to lead the way this season. Harry Fayle currently ranks second in the conference in scoring with an average of 24.3 points per contest. He is shooting 44.1% from three-point range, which ranks as the fourth-best percentage in the league.
In the front court, Tyus Barfoot has been an impact player on the glass. Barfoot leads the PacWest BC Conference with 10.5 rebounds per game to go along with his 14.5 points and 4.2 assists. The pair of Fayle and Barfoot are two of five players for the Mariners who have started in each game this season and are averaging double-digit points per game.
Vancouver Island University has one of the better starting units in the CCAA with their balance and ability to impact the game on both ends of the court. Add in their experience and it’s hard not to consider them the favourites in the league heading into the second half.
Not to be outdone, the Capilano Blues have the belief in themselves that they can contend for a CCAA Championship this season, and they are riding a wave of momentum that could carry them to a league title in the second half of the season. Add in the fact that they have one of the top scoring guards in the country on their roster in Denver Sparks-Guest, and anything is possible when the calendar flips to 2019.
The offense for the Blues is among the best in the country. Capilano is averaging 99.8 points per game as a team this season. All 11 players that have seen the court this season for the Blues are averaging at least 2.0 points per contest, four of whom are averaging 11.0 points or more. Balance has been key for the Blues this season, and that has carried them to their 5-1 start.
Leading the way has been the aforementioned Sparks-Guest, who leads the team with an average of 21.2 points per game on 50.0% shooting from the floor. In five of his six games this season, Sparks-Guest has recorded double-digit points. He is a threat to go off on any given night, evident by his 53-point outburst against the Okanagan College Coyotes in Capilano’s final game before the break. Sparks-Guest went 20-of-29 from the floor in the Blues’ 126-117 win over the Coyotes. He was also a perfect 10-of-10 from the free throw line.
While Sparks-Guest has been the star for the Blues so far, they have others who can step up on any given night and carry the load on offense. CJ Campbell (15.7 ppg), Brenden Bailey (12.0 ppg), and Kiante Knight (11.0 ppg) are all capable of taking a starring role with the Blues. With four double-digit scorers who can all shoulder the load on offense while giving the team different looks at the basket, the Blues are in a position that many other programs wish they were in with the weapons they have.
The top of the men’s basketball standings will provide a ton of excitement down the stretch. In the first six games of the year, each played the other six in the conference once. Over the first month, there was a high level of parity between the top three teams.
Vancouver Island University beat Douglas College. The Royals beat Capilano. The Blues beat the Mariners. Anyone can win on any given night.
To top it all off, one cannot count out the Langara Falcons, who sit at 3-3 on the year. The Falcons will serve as the hosts for the 2019 CCAA Championships, so you can bet they will find their groove in the second half and place themselves squarely in the race for the league title.
There have only been six games to this point in PacWest BC play, but they have given fans a good look at what to expect in the second half of the season. While there have been some teams that have tried to separate themselves from the pack, the title races are wide open as the New Year quickly approaches.
Who knows what the second half of the year will have in store, but we can guarantee that it will be a fun race towards the championships.
– T. Bennett