Sunday, 22 February 2015

Roll reaches 15 for Huskies

 Riley Humbert drives with the ball for the Huskies.
   It almost feels like an annual expectation.

    The calendar is going to turn to March and the University of Saskatchewan Huskies women's basketball team will once again be part of the monthly playoff madness.
    The Huskies punched their ticket to the Canada West Final Four for the seventh time in 10 years sweeping the U of Winnipeg Wesmen in a best-of-three quarter-final series 2-0 at the Physical Activity Complex. U of S claimed a 71-47 victory on Friday and a 73-57 triumph on Saturday thanks to a nice fourth-quarter surge.
    After starting the season at 4-3, the defending Canada West champs are currently riding a 15-game winning streak including action in the regular season and playoffs. During the run, they playing a well-rounded game, where everyone is finding ways to contribute to the success.
    While the Huskies have been a powerhouse team, there have been a lot of times in the past where they would tend to rely on fourth-year star post Dalyce Emmerson.
    Actually, the joke with anyone around the team was that when things go bad just pass the ball to Dalyce, and she will score. To her credit, Emmerson, who stands 6-foot-3, is one of those once in a generation talents, and it seemed like she would always score no matter what defence she faced. It almost seemed senseless not to get her the ball.
    She is huge at pulling down rebounds on either end of the court. With having someone as good as Emmerson on your side, you do develop a danger of relying on her too much, even if your team is loaded with other good players.
Dalyce Emmerson goes for two for the Huskies.
    At the start of the season, Emmerson was hampered by some nagging injuries, but she was still able to play. When she wasn't at 100 per cent, the other players on the Huskies stepped up to help carry the load.
    That continued to be evident during the sweep of the Wesmen. Emmerson, who is healthy, was a factor in those victories, but she wasn't the dominant force. The Huskies, who were 17-3 in the regular season, had their biggest contributions offensively come from their guards.
    In Friday's 71-47 victory, fourth-year guard Kelsey Trulsrud led the way with 21 points, and she also pulled down nine rebounds. Third-year guard Desarae Hogberg came off the bench to finish second in team scoring with 10 points.
    Emmerson was still part of the action leading the club with 16 rebounds, but she only had to attempt six shots from the floor thanks to the other contributions. She made four of those shots and finished with eight points.
    In Saturday's 73-57 win, fifth-year guard Riley Humbert fired down three-point shots like she was a secret character in the 1990s video game NBA Jam. She nailed a remarkable 8-of-11 shots from beyond the arc and led the Huskies with 24 points. Fourth-year guard Laura Dally and Trulsrud added 14 and 12 points respectively.
    Emmerson topped the Huskies with 13 rebounds, while chipping in five points and three assists.
    In the series clinching win, the Huskies pushed out to about a 10-point lead on a few occasions, but the Wesmen, who were 14-6 in the regular season, would force a tie score hitting a number of three-point shots of their own. The contest was tied 29-29 at halftime, and the Huskies held just a 52-48 edge after three quarters.
    When things got tough in past seasons, the ball would go inside to Emmerson to force a momentum change. On Saturday night, the Huskies guards responded with big shots to regain the upper hand.
    The host started the fourth quarter on a 9-0 run to go up 61-48 and cruised to the win from there.
    Entering the series, the Wesmen came in riding an eight-game winning streak of their own, so they were a formidable foe.
Kelsey Trulsrud controls play for the Huskies.
    The Huskies ball movement offensively and the success they had scoring outside and inside kept the visitors off balance. The players also benefit from the fact they are guided by head coach Lisa Thomaidis and assistants Jacqueline Lavallee, Alison Fairbrother and Jill Humbert, who together are one of the top three staffs if not the best staff in the women's game in Canada. 
    Going forward into the Canada West Final Four, the Huskies will be tough to beat. They could end up hosting the Canada West Final Four set for March 6-7, if the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds get upset by the U of Regina Cougars in a best-of-three quarter-final series this coming weekend. U of S got its series in early to lessen the scheduling stress due to hosting the Canadian Interuniversity Sport men's volleyball championship next weekend at the Physical Activity Complex.
    The Huskies will also soon start encountering single-elimination game type situations, which always makes playoff basketball compelling and unpredictable. With that said, all they have to do is win five more straight games to win the first ever CIS title in the history of the program.
    In all reality, the Huskies are now a short distance away from accomplishing the one goal that has eluded them. Achieving that goal would make for a sweet finish.
    NOTE -- Guard Kaylee Halvorson was sitting on the Huskies bench supporting the team in her street clothes on the weekend. Halvorson tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee just over a year ago.
    Her venture along the comeback trail has been plagued by a few setbacks. With that in mind, it was encouraging to see her with the team. Halvorson, who stands 5-foot-11, had been part of Canada's national team program, and her injury prevented anyone from seeing how good she could be.
    She still has three years of eligibility remaining to play with the Huskies.

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