author: nathan mccarville | sports writer
The Cougars will look to regroup before travelling to the Final 8 / Nathan McCarville
Cougars will face Gee-Gees in quarterfinals
The Canada West season has come to an end. After the Canada West final, which was played between the Regina Cougars and the Saskatchewan Huskies, the Huskies came out on top, , winning by a slim margin of 53-49 on Mar. 1.It was a surprisingly low–scoring game, considering the teams that were competing on the court.
The Huskies and the Cougars had played just weeks before on February 1 and 2 back in the regular season. The first of these two games ended with a result of 82-76 in favour of the Cougars, and the next 78-64 in favour of the Cougars once again. So, it was surprising when the first quarter of the game didn’t break double digits until near the end of the quarter, and the score at the end of the first set at 15-9 in favour of the Huskies, in a turn of expectations for the fans and commentators. Further, the score at the half rested at a low 22-20 in favour of the Huskies. At every turn, the Cougars and the Huskies seemed to be in one another’s path, blocking shots, taking charges, and crowding around the basket when an opposing player made an attempt at a lay-up, always ready to stop one another from scoring, while also trying to score themselves. This culminated in a game that was slow, and seemed arduous on the players who couldn’t always see the results of their hard work on the scoreboard.
At the half, the Canada West broadcast, commentators interviewed the head coaches of both teams. Coach Taylor commented on the developments of the game so far.
“Both teams are just too nervous, a bit too excited. They need to settle down.”
That was said immediately after Michaela Kleisinger’s jaw-dropping buzzer beater that changed the game from a five-point difference to two..
Head coach of the Huskies, Lisa Thomaidis, said something similar when questioned by the court-side correspondent at the half about the low scoring nature of the game, saying, “We weren’t the aggressors; we’re being too tentative.”
Each team, sticking to their starting lineup after the half, came back from the intermission with a fury. Coming out with aggressive offensives, the teams’ efforts seemed to cancel each other out. The Cougars were ahead for most of the third. However, near the end of the third, with every player was gathered under the hoop, One of the Cougars, Kyanna Giles, was left on the floor with an apparent knee injury with only two minutes left in the third. Unable to walk it off, her team was there to carry her off the court. By the end of the third, the score rested at a 35-35 tie, either team able to take the lead at this point in the game.
Coming back into the game for the fourth, the score stayed static until Saskatchewan’s Dukate’s basket changed that early in the fourth. Her basket was followed closely by the Cougars catching up with a basket of their own. Down by as much as seven points, the Cougars were behind the Huskies by at least two points throughout the last quarter of play. As the game drew to a close at the last minute, with 35.8 seconds left in the game, Bongomin’s free throw after a foul by the Huskies made it a two-point game once again, leading to some aggression and many fouls on either side as the game grew tense. Though, after another such foul, this time by the Cougars, the Huskies’ Maskewich’s two successful free throws were the nail in the coffin for the Cougars’ Canada West title.
With the low–scoring nature of the game, only four Huskies showed themselves on the scoreboard, with a few players producing a high amount of points starting with Sabine Dukate with 23 points, Summer Maskewich with 18 points, Kyla Shand with seven points, and close behind was Kelsey Lalor with five points. Despite this statistic, nine Cougars were able to score points in the March 1 game, with Kleisinger scoring nine points, Bongomin eight, Kyanna Giles seven, Goncalves six, Crone six, McCusker six, Reid three, Pearce two, Rowden two, making a night with everyone’s name on it for a game predominantly played in the key.
Assistant coach Fatih Akser, he was able to answer some questions from his courtside perspective on the game, starting with the low score of the game.
“Both teams did a great job analyzing one another’s strengths and weaknesses on the offensive end and they did a very good job building their defensive strategy around our offensive plan.“
He went on to list the reason the score was just above 50 for the Cougars
“Both teams really focused on executing their defensive strategy and tonight U of S did slightly better job than we did. They were able to stop us when we really needed to score.“
“We are a very good pick and roll offensive team and tonight they really played well on executing their pick and roll defence. They collapsed and used their athletics and length to cover all the angles. We had difficulties attacking inside and also didn’t do a good job shooting outside the three–point line either.“
When asked about the offensive nature of both teams, Akser had much to say.
“If I am not wrong, both teams finished as first and second at both of those [offensive] categories. Games like this where everything is on the line, both teams and their coaches really focused on defensive end and before that both teams did a very good job stopping one another.
I must give to credit to Sabine [Dukate] and Summer [Masikewich, both of the U of S] who really performed well on the offensive end when their team needed them to perform.
Akser was keen about what’s next when asked about the conclusion of the Cougars’ season.
“Unfortunately, losing to tonight’s game, we couldn’t accomplish out first goal, which was winning Canada West. Now, we have to shift our focus to the Nationals, which is our main goal. All of our players know that every tournament has its own story. Next week, we will be in a completely new and different season and our goal is to get to the medal round and give ourselves an opportunity to win it all.“
The Cougars move on to the USPORTS Championship taking place in Toronto. The women’s first game is set for Mar. 7 against the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees, a team the Cougars have previously played in the preseason at the University of Ottawa Tournament, where the Cougars won with a score of 63-53.