Dan Kinvig, UFV Athletics
ABBOTSFORD, B.C. – The Alberta Pandas overcame Taylor Claggett's record-breaking performance from the free-throw line to edge the UFV Cascades 69-61 in Canada West women's basketball action on Friday evening.
In a relentlessly rugged game at the Envision Financial Athletic Centre, Cascades fourth-year forward Claggett went an astounding 20-for-24 from the charity stripe, setting new Canada West marks for free throws made and attempted on her way to a game-high 30 points.
But it was the Pandas, behind 20 points from Jenna Harpe, who emerged victorious. The visitors put together a crucial run late in the third quarter to pull away, and fended off a furious UFV comeback effort down the stretch.
The Pandas (3-2) and Cascades (2-3) renew hostilities on Saturday at the EFAC (5 p.m., CanadaWest.tv).
"We got some key turnovers that led to baskets, and were able to get to the rim in that portion of the game late in the third," Pandas head coach Scott Edwards said. "All of a sudden we got a little bit of a run before the timeout happened, and that was probably the separation for that game. It was two good teams playing close basketball."
The Cascades struggled from the field over the opening 20 minutes – they shot just 3-for-11 in the first quarter, and 0-for-9 in the second. But they stayed in the game thanks to Claggett's uncanny ability to get to the free throw line – she had 14 attempts from the stripe in the first half, making 12 of them. The Pandas maintained a 32-27 lead at the break.
The turnover battle was one of the telling stats of the game, with UFV committing 22 to Alberta's tidy seven. The Pandas took advantage late in the third quarter, ending the frame on a 14-4 run to take a 55-41 advantage into the fourth.
The Cascades mounted a fourth-quarter push with some timely Abby Zawada jump shots supplementing Claggett's steady inside presence. The hosts drew to within 63-58 with just under two minutes remaining after Zawada knocked down a triple, but the Pandas went 6-for-6 from the free throw line from that juncture to seal the win.
Harpe was the lone Alberta player to score in double figures; Brooklyn Legault and Emma Kary posted nine points apiece, and Legault added eight rebounds.
Claggett added eight rebounds and four assists to her eye-popping stat line, and Zawada finished with 10 points.
"It's kind of an ongoing issue for us right now – we're having a really hard time scoring," UFV head coach Al Tuchscherer said. "It's something we're going to have to mature into. We're going to have to learn to score, and learn where our spots are, and we don't really know that right now."
Both coaches marveled at Claggett's free-throw display, which was part of a prolific night from both teams at the foul line. UFV was 28-for-36, and Alberta was 23-for-30.
The individual record for made free throws had stood for more than 22 years. Calgary's Meagan Koch made 19 against Saskatchewan on Jan. 20, 1996.
The mark for free throw attempts was even more long-standing. Sask's Sheryl Kleckner attempted 23 on Jan. 30, 1982 vs. UVic.
"Taylor did a little bit of everything tonight," Tuchscherer said. "She was strong at both ends of the floor, and she kept us in the game, particularly in the first half. She had 14 attempts (from the line), and we only had three field goals. Without Taylor there, would have been in a bit of trouble. She kept going in the second half, and had a really solid game for us."
"I was watching her play, and I'm thinking, 'That has got to be close to a free throw record,'" Edwards said. "She had a phenomenal night, and she's a phenomenal player. We've obviously got to have a different plan tomorrow with her."