Heating up down the stretch

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Joanna Zalesiak helps Cougars women’s basketball team sweep UBC

Autumn McDowell
Sports Editor

Playoff positions were on the line for the University of Regina Cougars women’s basketball team last weekend.

The team took on the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds at the Centre for Kinesiology, Health and Sport in a pair of Canada West games.

The Cougars came into the game in sole possession of second place in the CIS top ten rankings. They were also just one game behind the Saskatchewan Huskies for first and were holding a slim one-game lead over the Winnipeg Wesmen. In order for the Cougars to stay among the top two teams in the standings, bringing home two wins would be very important.

“That was probably our second best game of the year” said head coach Dave Taylor of the girl’s 85-54 victory on Friday night. “That was a complete game.”

Many of the spectators in attendance were there to watch Joanna Zalesiak in action. Zalesiak is the conference’s leading scorer, averaging 16.8 points per game and is also rumoured to be named player of the year. 

Zalesiak did not disappoint the Cougar fans as she finished off the night with 22 points, while showing impressive and unselfish passing. Zalesiak got things going early in the first quarter, which helped the Cougars secure a 29-15 lead after just 10 minutes of play. Lindsay Ledingham and Gabrielle Gheyssen contributed largely in the second quarter. The Cougars walked into the dressing room with a 43-35 point lead and never looked back.

It was more of the same for the Cougars in the second half. Great scoring chances, combined with pretty passing and hot shooting, allowed the Cougars to run away with the game. The Cougars were never fazed by the skill of UBC and held the lead the entire game. They were simply the better team that night.

Gheyssen finished off the night with a total of six three-pointers and became only the second Cougar to ever sink six from beyond the arc in a Canada West contest. Taylor couldn’t say enough good things about how his team played on Friday night.

“We have had trouble with slow starts this season, sometimes giving up 20 points, and that was something we really wanted to work on this weekend.”

In order for the team to keep progressing and earn a trip to nationals Taylor believes that consistency will be most important.

“We have to have games like that all the time,” he said. “We can be as good as any team in the country when we play well like that, but when we don’t play well we can lose to a lot of teams too.”

Regina proved to be a consistent team on Saturday, taking it to the Thunderbirds and earning themselves another W.  Although the victory did not come as easy for the Cougars on night two, they still ended up on top by a score of 75-69. 

With the weekend behind them, the Cougars improve their record to 17-3 and remain in sole possession of second place. The Cougars will take on their provincial rivals, the Saskatoon Huskies (18-2), in a home-and-home series this week before finishing the regular season off at home against the Manitoba Bisons (6-14) on Feb. 18 and 19. On Thursday, Saskatchewan comes to the CKHS for a 6:15 p.m. game. Regina will then make the trip into hostile territory on Saturday. These two games will be a very good indicator of how the top two teams stack up against each other so close to playoff time.

If the Cougars are able to perform well against the Huskies, it will give them the added confidence to reach their goal.

“We have said it from the beginning,” explained Taylor. “We want to win a national championship.”

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