LANGLEY, B.C. – Trinity Western's women's basketball earned its first-ever Canada West quarter-final win, as the No. 9-ranked Spartans beat Alberta 62-53 in Game 1 of their best-of-three series Thursday at the Langley Events Centre.
Trailing by five points going into the fourth quarter, the Spartans exploded for 24 points in the final frame, while holding Alberta to just 10 points, en route to a convincing nine-point victory.
The Pandas Emma Kary was Alberta's go-to scorer all night, tallying 27 points, as she was the only Pandas player to score more than six points. Mackenzie Cook had a game-high nine rebounds.
The win marks the first time TWU has ever won the opening game of a Canada West playoff series. Last year was the first time the Spartans had ever played in a conference quarter-final series, but they lost both games against Regina.
TWU shot 43.6 per cent from the field, while the Pandas shot 33.8 per cent.
A low-scoring opening quarter saw the Pandas open an 11-7 lead through the first 10 minutes.
The Spartans started to find their form in the second quarter, out-scoring Alberta 17-12 to nab a one-point edge, 24-23, at halftime. A 3-pointer from TWU's Sarah Buckingham (Surrey, B.C.) midway through the frame put the home side up by five, 22-17, but a late Alberta surge closed the gap just before the break.
The Pandas were the better side early in the third quarter, with Alberta going ahead 40-32 with 2:30 left in the frame. With Gordon leading TWU's offensive charge, the Spartans crawled back into the contest, trailing by just five points, 43-38, going to the fourth quarter.
The Spartans responded with a strong start to the final frame, holding Alberta to just five points through the first six minutes. After Ratzlaff evened the score 48-48 with a jumper, TWU's Tessa Needham (Port Moody, B.C.) knocked down a jumper of her own off a fast break to put TWU ahead 50-48 with 3:58 to play.
From there, with momentum on their side, the Spartans rolled, opening as much as a 12-point lead, 62-50, before holding off the Pandas down the stretch. TWU shot 78.6 per cent from the field in the fourth quarter.
Head Coach Cheryl Jean-Paul
"This whole week has been about tempo. I think the first quarter was a bit frantic and I think both teams played with a lot of nerves, but we eventually settled into the game. Playing at our tempo for the entire game really allowed us to break out in the fourth quarter. Alberta is a tough team to play against. They're so big, they're long and they're physical. Those are things that we've had to play against all season long. We've just had some very critical weekends in the past semester to get us ready for this. I think our team was ready to battle and that's what they did.
"It's going to be a battle tomorrow and we know it's going to be a very difficult challenge to get two in a row against Alberta, but it's nice to already have half the job done."
• The winner of this series advances to play the winner of the quarter-final series between Saskatchewan and Winnipeg. The Huskies won the first game of their series 76-58.
• Last year, the Spartans lost Game 1 of their Canada West Play-In best-of-three series before rallying to win the series. That series marked the first time TWU had ever hosted a women's basketball playoff game.
• TWU earned a bye into the quarter-finals after finishing third in the Canada West regular season standings, with a 16-4 record.
• The Spartans last saw Alberta in the first two games of the regular season, when they split their weekend series in Edmonton.
• TWU has never beat Alberta twice in the same weekend.
The Spartans and Pandas play Game 2 of their best-of-three Canada West quarter-final series Friday at 7 p.m. (PT) at the LEC.