Ali Baggott, Vikes Communications
VICTORIA – The University of Victoria Vikes women's basketball team were unable to overcome last season's national bronze medalists as they conceded an 85-50 game to the visiting Regina Cougars on Jan. 4 at the CARSA Performance Gym. The Cougars improve to 9-2, while the Vikes drop to 6-5 in the Canada West standings.
Regina had five players in double digits including U SPORTS Second Team All-Canadian Kyanna Giles who finished with 10 points, eight rebounds and five assists. Macaela Crone had a dominating second half to lead all scorers with a double-double of 24 points and 11 rebounds. Christina McCusker and Carolina Goncalves also had 10 points, while Angela Bongomin came off the bench to add 14 points and 13 rebounds.
"We were getting the looks we wanted in the first half but we were having trouble finishing," commented Regina head coach Dave Taylor. "The second half was a much better performance for us. I felt that was one of our best defensive efforts of the season. We played three games last week in tournament so that helped us shake of some of the rust coming off the holiday break before coming out here."
The Vikes struggled from the field shooting just 22 per cent from the field. Fifth year Amira Giannattasio had 10 points, six of those coming from the line, while Ashlyn Day also had 10 points with seven rebounds. Haily Weaver chipped in with eight points as the Vikes were out-rebounded 60-39.
"There was a point there in the first half where it was tied at 24 and we made a run and then gave up a bunch of unforced errors," described Vikes head coach Dani Sinclair. "We never recovered from that point. We just don't play hard enough sometimes. We were not strong enough when we did put the ball down on the floor so we got pushed off the line and took unbalanced shots."
The opening quarter had a slow start but a Crone bucket in the paint sprung an 8-0 run that allowed last year's Canada West leaders to coast to a 21-11 lead. The Vikes could only find points from the line as Weaver and Aleah Ashlee each put in two free throws to help close the gap but the Cougars were still up 21-15 entering the second.
The Vikes grabbed their first lead of the game 23-22 early in the second quarter but reigning conference Rookie of the Year Goncalves saw her shot drop and the No. 10 Cougars took the lead back, 25-24, moments later. The Vikes were forced to resort to perimeter attempts and attempts are what they remained. Crone's six-foot-one stature provided key defensive rebounds for the Cougars to deny Vikes second-chance points. Crone drained two from the line to push Regina up 32-24 and give them a 10-0 run since the Vikes were able to tie the game at 24.
Giannattasio dropped two in from the charity stripe late in the half to finally break the Vikes' drought but the overall lack of finish hindered the home side and allowed the Cougars to cruise to a 36-28 lead by half time.
The Cougars continued to dominate in the third as Crone lifted the visitors to a 49-30 lead four minutes in while a jumper from Giannattasio gave the Vikes some hope. Vikes forward Day hit a much-needed three to cut the lead to 53-35, and that play sparked the Vikes to force a Kyanna Giles turnover on the Cougars' next run.
A Vikes steal with 2:30 to go sprung Vikes guard Calli McMillan to race down the floor and set up Giannattasio for an easy lay-up. On the next play McMillan dropped a three to get the Vikes down by 17, trailing 57-40. The Cougars' lead was largely thanks to the two-way effort of Crone, while Kyanna and Kyia Giles along with Goncalves kept Regina in charge offensively. Crone had 14 points in the third to allow the Cougars to out-score the Vikes 28-13 and lead 64-41 entering the final quarter.
It was much of the same in the final stretch and the Cougars capped their game with an 85-50 win over the Vikes to open the 2019 half of the Canada West season.
"We have to focus on us," added Sinclair. "If we can play hard and play our game we can put more pressure on them to have to play well in our gym on a second night."
The 2019 opening weekend will conclude for both teams with a rematch on Jan. 5 at the CARSA Performance Gym at 5:00 p.m. The game will be webcast live at canadawest.TV while tickets can be purchased online at govikesgo.com/tickets.
"I have been in Canada West for 26 years, Victoria is always a tough place to play and even tougher to get two wins so we are in for a hard-fought game tomorrow," noted Regina's Taylor.
SCORING BY QUARTER
REG: 21-15-28-21 : 85
VIC: 15-13-13-9 : 50
REG: Macaela Crone (24), Angela Bongomin (14) Kyanna Giles (10), Carolina Goncalves (10), Christina McCusker (10)
VIC: Amira Giannattasio (10), Ashlyn Day (10), Haily Weaver (8)
Photo Credit: APShutter.com