Hoop dreams ended
Cougars women’s basketball team fails to advance to nationals
The University of Regina Cougars women’s basketball season came to a premature end last Saturday night.
The Cougars dropped an 82-67 decision to the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks in the Canadian Interuniversity Sports West Regional final at the Centre for Kinesiology, Health and Sport. Though the loss prevented them from automatically qualifying for nationals, Regina had a chance to earn an at-large berth. However, a committee decided the next day that the Carleton Ravens would earn the final berth.
“We need to come out ready to play every night,” said a tearful Carly Graham of the Cougars after the loss to Laurier.
“We can’t have those slow starts. It has been a great season and I was hoping we’d get another shot.”
After losing to the Saskatchewan Huskies 77-74 in the Canada West final earlier in March, Regina became the host of the West Regional, a four-team tournament that would give one team an automatic entry to nationals.
Regina just had to come out of the weekend with two wins, something that they have done many times this season, and their dreams of becoming national champions would still be alive.
On Friday, the Cougars faced the Victoria Vikes, the winners of an at-large berth who the Cougars had beaten in a conference quarterfinal.
The Cougars had a trademark slow start in the game, as they found themselves down by as many as 13 in the second quarter. Vikes player Debbie Yeboah was on fire, as she put up 10 points in the first quarter alone.
The home-court advantage began to work in the Cougars’ favour in the second, as they were able to score 12 of the last 15 points before the break, cutting the Vikes’ lead down to four.
The Cougars were clearly pumped up and ready to play in the second half, as they were able to go for a 10-1 run, getting a hold of the lead in the process for the first time in the game since the first quarter.
Regina was clinging onto a three-point lead heading into the final quarter, but back-to-back three-pointers by Danielle Schmidt put the home team up by nine in a hurry.
“Dani Schmidt going 5-for-5 from the three-point line gave us a huge spark when we needed it the most” offered Cougars head coach Dave Taylor in a written statement on reginacougars.com.
Victoria was nowhere near giving up, as they were able to string together a six-point run. But the Cougars were quick to pounce on the Vikes, as they put together an 11-point streak.
The large point swing put the home team up by 14 with just three minutes left on the clock, and the Cougars could finally breathe easy as they finished off Victoria by a final score of 83-73.
“We struggled again in the first half, but got it going much better in the second” said Taylor.
Schmidt finished the night with a career-high 23 points, while Lindsay Ledingham and Joanna Zalesiak both pitched in with double-doubles.
With the win, the Cougars moved on to face Laurier on Saturday, the winner of the other semifinal against the UQAM Citadins, to determine the regional champion.
Saturday night’s final began in typical Cougar fashion, a bit slow. The two teams found themselves in a tight game early on as they seemed evenly matched. The first half alone had 11 lead changes.
Regina went into the half down by five, but that deficit quickly became much larger as the Golden Hawks quite simply could not miss.
As the shots fell for the visitors, the penalties began piling up for the home team, resulting in Laurier going on a 14-4 run, and leading by as many as 17.
The huge third quarter for the visitors featured a 59 per cent shooting percentage from the field and a 4-for-5 performance from beyond the arc that helped Laurier outscore Regina 27-15.
The 17-point hole that the Cougars found themselves in seemed incredibly tough to climb out of, but the Cougars kept trying.
In an effort to pull off the victory, Regina mounted a nine-point run, cutting the lead down to eight with three minutes left on the clock.
However, Laurier’s unreal shooting took centre stage in the final minutes, as they scored the final seven points of the game, managing to put the Cougars away.
After the loss, the Cougars were not completely out of the running for a spot at nationals. The Cougars, Carleton, and Western Ontario Mustangs were all anxiously waiting to see which of them would earn an at-large berth for nationals.
But the last possible ticket to nationals did not go to the Cougars. The last shot that the three teams were vying for went to Carleton, officially putting an end to the Cougars’ season.
Although the Cougars’ season did not end the way that they had envisioned, they did the school proud and should hold their heads high.