VICTORIA – The Trinity Western Spartans women's basketball snatched the lead in the first minute of play and never surrendered it as they scored a 64-60 victory over the Victoria Vikes inside the CARSA Performance Gym. The game draws the team into a tie for sixth in the conference, with each sporting an identical record of 10-5. With five games remaining in the season the Spartans have clinched a play-off spot.
"Tonight was a continuation of what we've been working through over the last few weeks. We've learned a lot about what we are capable of since the Winnipeg win and it's nice to see us continuing to improve," commented TWU head coach Cheryl Jean-Paul. "There have been so many clutch moments and it's really a testament to the resolve the team has made to be competitive and not give up despite adversity. We didn't handle the press well and have some defensive adjustments to make but the ability to make shots and free throws at the end was critical."
The Spartans out-rebounded the Vikes 47-40, and while neither team shot the ball particularly well, the Spartans 50 per cent effort from the field in the fourth quarter allowed them to fend off a late Vikes push.
"There is a lot to learn from that game, especially in the end of game scenarios," said Vikes head coach Dani Sinclair. "We never really gained control even when we started a run in the third quarter, we just handed it right back to them.
Jessie Brown was the highest scorer on either team, managing 20 points in 33 minutes on the court. Natalie Carkner made some important baskets down the stretch to put up 17 points, while Tessa Ratzlaff has 12 points and nine rebounds.
While the Vikes were able to keep Ratzlaff, second in Canada West scoring, to well below her season average, Brown and Carkner stepped up to fill the scoring role.
"The team has been so unselfish, everyone is celebrating each other's big games," said Jean-Paul. "We've really been able to take advantage of multiple people showing up and they are getting it done as a team, so that's what's most important."
It was a much quieter than normal night on the offensive end for the Vikes, they scored just 19 points in the first half while shooting 25 per cent from the field as a team.
"Our decision making when we play with pace has to be better because that helped us but also hurt us," said Sinclair. "There were times we made poor decisions with the ball because we were trying to go too fast."
Third-year Vike Kristy Gallagher drove her way to the hoop for 16 points on seven-for-13 shooting to lead the team. Jenna Bugiardini picked up 14 points and 18 rebounds, nine on the offensive end, and Nicole Karstein finished the game with ten points and eight rebounds.
Trailing by nine points at the half, the Vikes came out and started the third playing a high-pressure defence and looked determined to run the floor with speed offensively. Every time they cut too far into Trinity Western's lead however, the Spartans had a response.
"We let shooters hit their shots and let rebounders rebound, defensively we were not bad in the first half, but as we found our offensive rhythm we stopped defending," said Sinclair.
A back-and-forth affair throughout the second half never saw the Spartans lead grow to more than eight, but it also never dipped under two.
The closest the game came was in the very last minute. The Vikes had momentum and the ball, but the Spartans defence clamped down when it need to most, allowing Kayla Gordon to hit clutch pair of free throws to clinch the victory.
"To come into Victoria and get a win is really hard to do so I'm really proud of the team," said Jean-Paul. "They are believing in what they are capable of doing and knocking down some really difficult shots."
One team will move ahead of the other tomorrow night when these teams do battle again inside the CARSA Performance Gym in Victoria. Tip-off is scheduled for 5 pm and the game can be watched live on canadawest.tv
"As a coaching staff we have to figure out where our passion is, we've had a couple bad starts and we knew we were going to pay for that eventually," said Sinclair.
The two teams will match up again Saturday night in Victoria. The game can be seen live on Canadawest.tv.
Game Notes: TWU and Victoria met in last year's Canada West playoffs, with Victoria taking the best of three series 2-1…TWU is on a four game winning streak and have won seven of their last eight games… with the win the Spartans, who have five games remaining, guarantee that they will finish with a .500 or better record for the first time in program history…