Saturday, 12 March 2016

Huskies would not be denied

Hoops team erases heartbreak with Canada West title win

Huskies graduate assistant coach Kabree Howard hugs Desarae Hogberg.
    The heartbreak of a year ago seems like a distant memory.
    Last season, the University of Saskatchewan Huskies women’s basketball team suffered a tough 69-68 loss in the Canada West championship game in Vancouver, when the host University of British Columbia Thunderbirds prevailed thanks to a game-winning shot in the contest’s dying seconds. After that setback, the Huskies went on to finish fourth at the Canadian Interuniversity Sport national championship tournament.
    On Saturday playing in front of a raucous home crowd of 2,313 spectators at the Physical Activity Complex, the Huskies weren’t going to be denied a chance to erase that painful memory. Playing their provincial rival University of Regina Cougars, the Huskies trailed 18-15 after the first quarter before hitting high gear.
    They vaulted out to a 37-31 lead at halftime and jetted out to an impressive 61-39 edge after the third quarter. They cruised to a 73-62 victory from that point to claim their third Canada West championship in the last six years.
Dalyce Emmerson knocks in two points for the Huskies.
    “You can’t describe it to win at home,” said fifth-year superstar post Dalyce Emmerson. “I think what lit the fire was losing last year.
    “We knew we wanted to come back and win it on our home court. We knew what we could do and what we could accomplish, and that is what we did tonight.
    “We are so happy. We are going to celebrate this and then we are going to go out to nationals and hopefully bring home another banner.”
    The Huskies, who are rated second in the CIS top ten rankings, advanced to Saturday’s title game after downing the University of Alberta Pandas 78-68 on Friday. The Cougars slipped past the MacEwan University Griffins 65-59 in Friday’s other semifinal.
    Saturday’s championship game started out as a back-and-forth affair that featured eight lead changes.     
    It appeared early on the Cougars, who are rated fifth in the CIS top ten rankings, were going to put up a fierce battle.
    Backed by one of the loudest crowds the Physical Activity Complex had ever seen, Huskies point guard Sabine Dukate started to drive the ball hard to the hold and nailed four shots from three-point range to lead all scorers with 18 points.
Huskies guard Kelsey Trulsrud dives to break up a Cougars pass.
    Fifth-year guard Laura Dally, who was named the most valuable player of the Canada West conference, had a couple of big blocks on the defensive end and poured in 17 points on the offensive end. 
    Scrappy and energetic fifth-year guard Kelsey Trulsrud, who stands 5-foot-9, was doing everything she could to make plays scoring 12 points, pulling down six rebounds and getting a pair of steals. The Holy Cross High School grad was a force pushing the ball down court in transition.
    Fourth-year guard Desarae Hogberg also chipped in 12 points to back the Huskies offence, which helped cause another problem for the Cougars.
    U of S was getting contributions from so many sources that Emmerson, who has willed the Huskies to victory on various occasions in her career, didn’t have to be the focal point for success. She still scored six points, pulled down seven rebounds and blocked three shots in the win.
    Coming out after halftime, the Huskies outscored the Cougars 24-8 in the third quarter to build a 22-point edge the Cougars couldn’t overcome. Trulsrud said her side did pretty much everything right on both sides of the court during that stretch.
Huskies guard Laura Dally blocks a shot.
    “We made some huge shots,” said Trulsrud. “We limited their touches on offence.
    “They got one shot, and if it didn’t go in, we came down with the rebound and that started our offence.”
    Charlotte Kot and Katie Polischuk led the Cougars in scoring with 14 points each.
    Following the third quarter, the Cougars looked visibly deflated. A mini 9-3 run by the U of R in the closing moments of the fourth quarter made the final score look closer than the contest actually was.
    Head coach Lisa Thomaidis, who is the Canada West coach of the year, has guided the Huskies program to all four of their Canada West title wins. To her, Saturday’s title win was as enjoyable as the rest.
    “This was right up there,” said Thomaidis. “We lost some very key cogs in Riley Humbert, Kabree Howard and Jordyn Halvorson.
    “To have these returning players and with the addition obviously of Sabine (Dukate) and with everyone else getting that much better, this is certainly the most talented team we’ve ever had. They showed it tonight.”
    The Huskies and Cougars both advance to the Canadian Interuniversity Sport championship tournament, which runs March 17 to 20 in Fredericton, New Brunswick. In the Canada West Bronze medal game, the Pandas downed the Griffins 66-55. U of A may still qualify for nationals as a wildcard entry.
    U of S has never won a CIS title in women’s basketball. This year’s Huskies squad would like nothing better than to win this year’s CIS title game.
The Huskies enjoy their Canada West championship victory.
    “We are definitely on a high right now,” said Emmerson. “We are playing the best that we’ve played all year. We want to continue that into next week too.”
    “We are coming out, and we are playing our best,” said Trulsrud. “This is where we peak, so we just have to carry it on for next weekend.”

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