SASKATOON – Consecutive defensive stops in the fourth quarter lifted the No. 7-ranked University of Saskatchewan Huskies over the No. 9 Trinity Western University Spartans 75-62 Thursday night on Ron & Jane Graham Court at the PAC in Game 1 of a best-of-three Canada West semifinal series.
It was a slow start for Saskatchewan, as the Spartans, who were playing in their first-ever Canada West semifinal game, outscored them 19-11 in the opening quarter. Saskatchewan turned the game around in the second, outscoring TWU 23-14 to hold a 34-31 lead at the halftime break.
The Huskies expanded the lead to 53-49 after the third quarter before defence stood tall in the fourth. Saskatchewan only allow two points in the first 6:23 of the final frame and the Huskies outscored the Spartans 22-13 over the final 10 minutes to secure the win.
Canada West First Team All-Star Sabine Dukate finished with a game-high 23 points, three rebounds and three assists. Second team all-star Summer Masikewich added 16 points and four rebounds. Point guard Libby Epoch recorded seven assists and three steals.
Third-year Sarah Buckingham (Surrey, B.C.) led the Spartans with 15 points. Fourth-year Jessie Brown (Langley, B.C.) added another 13 points and two rebounds. The Huskies kept the Spartans' all-stars in check throughout the contest. First team all-star Tessa Ratzlaff (Abbotsford, B.C.), who was in foul trouble for much of the contest, scored nine points, while third team all-star Kayla Gordon (Prince George, B.C.) tallied eight.
The Huskies scored 16 points from 15 Trinity Western turnovers, while the Spartans scored eight on seven turnovers. The Huskies also recorded 11 second-chance points, while TWU failed to record a second-chance basket.
Saskatchewan finished 31-of-70 from the field, while the Spartans shot 24-of-51. The Huskies outrebounded the Spartans 32-23.
Head Coach Cheryl Jean-Paul
"This was a tough one tonight. The only thing that will hurt us is if we don't learn from the experience. We need to come back better and tougher tomorrow. Saskatchewan is experienced in the momentum shifts of playoff games and we didn't respond in the second and fourth quarters. Instead of acting in situations, we began hoping for things to change. There are good lessons to learn from a great opponent and I'm looking forward to seeing our team's response tomorrow."
• After beating Alberta in the Canada West quarter-finals, the Spartans advanced to the conference semifinals for the first time in program history.
• TWU and Saskatchewan split their weekend series during the regular season.
• The winner of the semifinal series will move onto Canada West championship game and earn a berth in the U SPORTS championship tournament.
• If Regina, who will host the U SPORTS championship and, as such, earns an automatic berth into the national tournament, wins its semifinal series (the Cougars beat Calgary in Game 1), the two semifinal losers will play for a Canada West bronze medal, with the winner advancing to the U SPORTS championship. In this scenario, if TWU loses its series with Saskatchewan, the Spartans would host the bronze medal game March 3.
Tipoff for Game 2 is at 7 p.m. Friday night, while Game 3, if needed, will be played Saturday at 7 p.m