EDMONTON – In a back-and-forth affair between two of the conference's top teams, the Trinity Western Spartans were able to edge out the University of Alberta Pandas with a 63-62 decision, Saturday night at Saville Community Sports Centre. The Spartans win sees the teams split their season-opening weekend.
Two Spartans recorded double-doubles on Saturday night, senior forward Kayla Gordon (Prince George, B.C.) scoring 14 points and 11 rebounds while fourth-year forward Tessa Ratzlaff (Abbotsford, B.C.) scored 12 points and 10 boards. Fourth-year guard Jessie Brown (Langley, B.C.) tied for a game-high 14 points with Gordon, third-year guard Sarah Buckingham (Surrey, B.C.) contributing 11 points.
Third-year guard Megan Tywoniuk led the Pandas with 11 points, sophomore guard Emma Kary adding 10 points while senior forward Briana Carlyon earned a team-high 10 rebounds.
The two squads exchanged early buckets before Trinity Western started a 10-3 run to double up on the Pandas with a 14-7 score. The offence froze up on both sides for over three-and-a-half minutes, the Spartans able to drain a couple of attempts before Alberta was finally able to score again, allowing five minutes to pass between points.
The second quarter was a far different story for the home team, getting two straight buckets off the hop to begin an 11-3 run, including fourth-year guard Tess Hendricks netting a baseline three right after the sole Trinity Western basket before sending in Carlyon alone for a layup.
Third-year guard Vanessa Wild completed the comeback, finding two points off the charity stripe before launching a three-ball from the elbow to claim an Alberta lead. Despite Buckingham tying up the game shortly thereafter with some free throws, Alberta maintained their momentum with a Mackenzie Cook layup and a Jenna Harpe trey out of a scramble.
Going into halftime, the Pandas and Spartans continued their battle on the scoreboard, but Alberta's much-improved shooting percentage (47% in the second compared to 21% in the first) gave them a slight 32-27 lead.
A Jessie Brown shot from long-distance threatened the lead early in the third quarter, but the Pandas replied with a 10-2 run to temporarily expand their lead to 10.
One of the best road teams from last season fought back with a 14-4 run to tie up the game before senior forward Ashleigh Barnes (Oceanside, Calif.) hit a buzzer-beating layup to earn Trinity Western a 49-46 lead heading into the final frame.
Despite improving the lead to six early in the fourth quarter, the Pandas took their turn to fight back and erased the deficit, tying the game at 54.
Gordon got the next four points to push the visitors back ahead, but Hendershot fought off her defender and knocked her shot off the glass to make it only a two-point lead for the Spartans with just over three minutes to go.
After exchanging free throws and a Ratzlaff layup, Wild missed her shot from long-distance only to have the ball rebound back out to her where Wild threw the ball over to Harpe who found nothing but net just off the top of the arc with only 15.5 seconds left.
Two more Gordon free throws with 9.8 seconds left had Trinity Western back up by three, forcing Alberta's Emma Kary to try an unsuccessful baseline trey, but Wild put the rebound off the glass for a one-point difference with 4.6 seconds left.
Unfortunately for the home team, Trinity Western held on to the ball to close out the game, leading to a split in the weekend series.
Head Coach Cheryl Jean-Paul
""Tonight was a great response to yesterday's game. We felt that we didn't give ourselves a chance to catch up yesterday based on the deficit we were in going into the second half. Tonight was a different story. We battled through, survived the offensive dip in the second quarter and played with so much composure in the last few minutes that I felt we were really rewarded for how hard we have been training to play our style and our tempo.
"We had some huge performances today and for the ones that are new to their roles this season, they played with a lot of maturity and I'm really proud of the entire team since these kinds of wins require contributions from everyone to happen regardless of the stat lines. Everyone was ready to battle and this will allow us to continue growing and figuring this group out."
The Spartans return to Langley, B.C. next weekend as they host the UNBC Timberwolves Nov. 3-4 in their home-opening weekend.