Huskies get lanced

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U of S loses to Windsor in CIS women’s basketball final

Josh Kolm
The Lance (University of Windsor)

WINDSOR, Ont. (CUP) — Considered one of the top teams in the nation for the last three years, the University of Windsor Lancers women’s basketball team finally has the hardware to prove it.

In a nail-biting matchup against the second-seeded Saskatchewan Huskies, the Lancers laid claim to the Bronze Baby trophy with a 63–49 victory in front of a capacity hometown crowd on March 21.

It is the first-ever CIS women’s basketball title in Lancers’ history. For Lancers head coach Chantal Vallee, who clearly still remembered losing in the finals last year, that offered a little something extra.

“As sad as I was last year that we didn’t win, I am so glad that we could win our first national championship on the home court,” Vallee said. “It’s a moment we’ll never forget.”

For others, like departing fifth-year forward Raelyn Prince, there wasn’t much to think about besides their emotions.

“This just feels so great. I could run a marathon right now,” Prince said.

Despite coming in as the number-one seed, the Lancers had been ranked behind Saskatchewan in the CIS Top Ten since the early winter, making for an interesting final matchup. Both teams are offensively renowned, but play very different styles, with Windsor’s patient efficiency meeting Saskatchewan’s high-impact style.

While the Lancers opened up the scoring with a series of beautiful plays, the Huskies quickly jumped ahead with a potent attack that Windsor wasn’t quite ready to stop.

“They’re a very strong, guard-oriented team, and we’re a post-oriented team,” Vallee said of the matchup. “We really talked to our posts about stopping the fourth guard and doing their job there. Their guards are very fast. As you could see, we needed to make some adjustments.”

By the second, the Lancers came up with some big answers to the Huskies offence, earning numerous defensive stops and going on a 23–8 scoring run in the quarter.

As is typical of Windsor’s offence, consistently hitting the mark on shooting – 43 per cent from the field against Saskatchewan – allowed them to slowly build a lead as the quarter got drawn out.

“We couldn’t quite stay with them,” fifth-year Huskies player Jill Humbert said. “We’re not going to win a game scoring 49 points, that’s for sure."

“They’re a momentum team,” added fellow Saskatchewan fifth-year Marci Kiselyk. “A lot of their scoring came in bursts. They’d get [8–12] points in a row, and that’s pretty tough to kill that momentum once it starts going.”

In the third, setting up a wall under the net seemed to frustrate the Lancers and forced them to cough up the ball to the Huskies. But once again, a couple of big scoring plays near the end of the quarter restored Windsor’s momentum, and they carried it right to the end of the game.

After making two consecutive three-point shots that began to put the game in the bag, Windsor’s Bojana Kovacevic could be seen yelling in joy, fists clenched and a smile plastered across her face.

CIS player of the year Jessica Clemençon had 18 points and seven blocks in the game, while Kovacevic earned 14 points and nine rebounds. Miah-Marie Langlois, who was named tournament MVP, contributed 10 points and three assists.

Clemençon was still able to perform at the top of her game all weekend, despite teams scouting her well and providing double coverage.

The Huskies did the best job with a more conditional style of coverage, waiting until Clemençon got the ball before they doubled up under the net. This stopped her in the third quarter but still prevented other Lancers from being left open, as happened in the opening round game against Laval.

“[Clemençon’s] a good player and she really battles,” Kiselyk said.

Having mentioned that, it was clear that the Lancers’ biggest asset over the Huskies was arguably the depth of their bench. While Saskatchewan played only seven of their players during the game, Vallee called to her bench less than three minutes into the game.

Analysts have been describing the Lancers as a “ten-deep” team all season, and it gave them edge during the tournament. Who is on the court often depends more on strategy than who the superstars are.

“This is the first year we have all the girls on board and accepting their role – playing, not playing, substituting, starter, scorer, not a scorer…” Vallee said of her team. “That can be hard to accept, but the girls are mature and they had a goal in mind as a team. They’re very selfless.”

Two Lancers bench players who stood out all weekend were rookie Korissa Williams and fifth-year guard Heather Angus. In particular, the guards seemed to be called on when the defensive pressure needed to be turned up. On Sunday, Williams earned a double-double off the bench with 11 points and 10 rebounds, as well as four steals.

The Huskies, on the other hand, only played seven players and, by the fourth, were missing most of their shots. Their first-half shooting percentage of 45.5 dropped to 39.1 in the second half, and their three-point percentage dropped from 60 to 30.

With files from Kevin Menz, The Sheaf

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