Basketball seniors night !!

February 22nd, 2015

PHOTO GALLERY on the Mariners FLICKR site

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VIU STARS play last home games
by Scott McKenzie
Nanaimo Daily News

Jenna Carver played her final PacWest conference home game for the VIU Mariners on Saturday — but she’ll be back on the campus court when her team hosts the national women’s basketball championships in March.

You can’t say the same for Harrison Stupich, who like Carver is a locally born and bread fifth-year senior and played in front of his home fans for the final time in his college basketball career.

Both were just happy to come out of the weekend, their last regular season weekend of home games, with four total wins for the Mariners men’s and women’s basketball teams, after they were honoured with a senior night on Friday.

“I knew it wasn’t really my last game, so it was more just sentimental because they were honouring me,” Carver said. “I just played the same way I always play. Honestly on Friday I really wanted to do well. It’s different because we’re hosting nationals, but it meant a lot.”

Carver, a former star with the Wellington Wildcats, started her weekend with a double-double — 15 points  and 15 rebounds in her team’s 64-45 win over the CBC Bearcats on Saturday — as the game’s top scorer and rebounder.

She continues to lead the conference in rebounding, and is also ninth in scoring.

Saturday, she had 10 points and 14 points as her team rallied from behind to beat the Kwantlen Eagles 59-48.

“In the second half it took a lot of coming together and just focusing on playing as a team and being positive, and not thinking about negatives,” Carver said of the key to the comeback for the Mariners, ranked second in the conference and 10th in the country. “We just tried to stay positive and work together, rather than individually.”

Stupich, who before coming to the Mariners was a star with the Cedar Spartans — at a school that no longer exists — led his team in scoring on his senior night with 20 points in a win over the Bearcats.

“It was pretty special,” he said of his final weekend of games at VIU. “The support that I had was insane. My friends, my family, my team, everyone was unreal and it made this weekend pretty special.”

The Mariners’ 121-59 victory over the Bearcats set a school record for points scored in a game, and they did so again on Saturday when they beat Kwantlen 136-63 on Saturday in what was coach Matt Kuzminski’s 50th career victory.

Stupich, who was part of the Mariners’ 2013 national championship team, said it is encouraging to see his team clicking like it is right now.

They’ve only lost one game in conference play, they’re on a 10-game win streak and on top of the PacWest standings, ranked    No. 3 in the country with only two road games left in the season before provincials begin, and a shot at a nationals berth is on the line.

“We’re coming together at the right  time and playoffs are just around the corner,” Stupich said, “so it’s definitely encouraging and exciting to see that we’re playing to our potential.”

For the women’s team, provincials will be a proving ground but also a tournament they can play in with the knowledge they are owners of the host berth at national championships next month.

Provincial championships begin March 5 in Abbotsford, and the Mariners still want to come out on top of that tournament and go into nationals through the front door, rather than the back.

“I think we definitely are contenders for provincials,” Carver said. “Nationals, I think we have a great chance. It’s anyone’s game any day, it just depends on who shows up and who’s ready to play every day, mentally and physically.”

The Mariners host the national championship tournament on March 19 at VIU.

The men’s team, however, will likely need to win provincials to make it to their goal of a second national championship in two years — they fell short of the a year ago with a loss in the B.C. final to the eventual Canadian champs, the Langara Falcons.

There is a chance the PacWest gets the national “wild card” berth and gets two teams into the tournament, but the Mariners won’t want to take they chance.

“We want to win it all, and we definitely have the talent and the ability to,” Stupich said. “A national championship is definitely within our sights.”