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A weekend of playoff action for three Cougars teams

Dobner for two./Arthur Ward
Dobner for two./Arthur Ward

Basketball and hockey squads all post wins

With the final regular season weekend of hoops action set to tip off at the CKHS, the University of Regina Cougars readied themselves to do battle against their rivals from three hours north, the University of Saskatchewan Huskies.

Even with both the men’s and women’s teams having secured playoff berths, much was still on the line at the outset of the two game series. For the women, the outcome(s) would determine who would end the season as the leader of the Canada West’s Pioneer Division. For the men, although their inclusion in the Canada West playoffs was assured, their opponent was not yet determined.

One ear-pleasing rendition of Oh Canada, performed by local performing artist Kelsey Kuz, and the battle between Canada’s number five and number two teams was on in front of a raucous crowd – what with it being homecoming weekend.

The hometown Cougars would come out firing. Fifth-year point guard Sidney Dobner would nail the last shot of the quarter for a 25-13 lead, but not before Michaela Kleisinger was crushed by a screen – a play which would exemplify the intensity that both teams would show throughout the contest.

From beginning to end , head coach Dave Taylor rotated his players frequently and was continually vocal, particularly as the Huskies roared back in the second quarter to slim the green and gold’s lead to five points. The team’s excruciatingly stagnant office drew Taylor’s ire on multiple occasions.

Both teams would trade barbs early in the second half, but the Cougars would call a timeout after conceding what had previously been an 18-point lead and going down by two. Multiple threes, however, would allow Regina’s squad to reestablish the five-point lead they had entered the mid-game break with.

More of the same would transpire in the final quarter. The U of S would be forced to regroup having gone down by double digits once again. Showing the resilience that it takes to be considered the number two team in the nation, the Huskies trimmed the score to 71-67. For the Cougars’ part, they were once again guilty of not moving the ball as much as they had previously, an issue that had been highlighted by Taylor earlier in the game. To make matters worse, Huskies’ #11 Laura Dally would step to the line with a chance to convert a three-point play, an opportunity she would convert on.

Not to be outdone, Sidney Dobner would nail an off-the-dribble fadeaway to bring the lead back up to three. With the near-capacity crowd rocking, the Huskies seemed unaware of the shot clock on the next possession, the ticking down of which would force an air ball of a three.

A Huskies triple would cut the lead to one before a bench timeout would advance the ball to half with the U of R only needing to hold their advantage in order to come away victorious. Two inbound plays, two fouls by the Huskies, and Crone would be sent to the line once again. And, as former Cougars guard Darius Mole would say…

Bang.

Bang.

Two shots. Two makes. The clock would run out and the scoreboard read 83-78, Cougars.

The U of R would start the men’s game by showcasing their athleticism, with three baskets coming entirely from lay-ups. The Huskies, however, were more than equal to the challenge, posting seven points of their own. At the end of the first quarter, the team from the city of bridges would be ahead by three, 21-18.

The game, as would be expected from a rivalry contest, was a physical one. This intensity culminated in an intentional foul being committed against Tull, a call that invited the frustration of Huskies coach Barry Rawlyk. Rawlyk received a technical for his vocal displeasure. Even with their repeated struggles, the Cougars would find themselves down only two at halftime, leaving the game well within reach

One missed shot at tuition and a good-natured Cougar alumni skills competition, as cringe-worthy as it was laugh inducing, and the game was back on.

In the third quarter, every time the Cougars would look to be getting close, the U of S would reestablish their lead.

The Cougars would enter the final quarter needing to overcome a nine-point deficit.  The Cougars were frustrated with the officiating for much of the game, as it showed in their faces and deadened any momentum they managed to accrue. The physicality left few Cougars without a foul and the game ended 73-66.

Saturday would bring much of the same. In the women’s game, the first quarter would end tied, emulating the nail-biter held less than twenty-four hours earlier. The green and gold would race out to a nine-point lead before post player Dalyce Emmerson’s shot would trim the lead by two. A number of threes would be completed by both teams, but stagnant play once again cursed the home team, as they entered halftime with a slim two-point lead.

In line with the physicality of the previous six quarters, both Kajati and Crone would pick up their third fouls in the third quarter and the sure-handed Sidney Dobner would be sent right back into the thick of things. The Cougars would go into the fourth two points down, a Pioneer Division crown still within reach.

Alas, it was not to be. The Cougars’ hot shooting would desert them and, combined with a stretch of solid offense by the U of S,, the U of R wouldn’t pose much of a challenge the rest of the way, losing to the #2 ranked Huskies by 9, 81-72, but not before graduating players Kehlsie Crone and Sidney Dobner left the floor to deserved applause.

With the game in the books, it was time for the most emotional part of the night, the ceremony for the graduating players from the women’s program. Alison Kajati, Kehlsie Crone, and Sidney Dobner were all honoured, with coach Dave Taylor providing detailed reflections on each player’s contributions to the program. In a show of respect, the Cougars bench boss also made sure to recognize the influence of each of the University of Saskatchewan’s graduating players.

Taylor also asked the crowd to acknowledge the work of long-time Huskies coach Lisa Thomaidis, imploring those in attendance to cheer her and the national team she coaches, Canada, on in the upcoming Olympics.

With that done, the men’s game got underway, a contest they would win 84-74. Graduating players Will Tallman and Jonathan Tull were both honoured for their contributions. With the victory, the team secured fifth place in the Pioneer Division and a home playoff series against the University of Winnipeg Wesmen next weekend, a team they have beaten twice already this season. The women, on the other hand, get a weekend off before they have to compete against the University of Calgary Dinos.

 

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