Dan Kinvig, UFV Athletics
ABBOTSFORD, B.C. – The University of the Fraser Valley women's basketball team dug deep to earn a character win on Saturday, topping the Brandon Bobcats 63-53 at the Envision Financial Athletic Centre.
The Cascades were without Taylor Claggett – the third-leading scorer in Canada West (20.1 points per game) was sidelined due to injury. Yet in her absence, her teammates shared the scoring load and locked in defensively, limiting the Bobcats to just 12 first-half points en route to the double-digit triumph.
UFV ran its win streak to six and boosted its record to 9-5, good for sixth place in Canada West, while the Bobcats fell to 2-10.
"I was really proud of the girls' effort tonight to face some adversity that close to game time," said Cascades head coach Al Tuchscherer, noting that the decision on whether or not to play Claggett came just half an hour before tip-off. "To come out with that much energy and have such a fantastic defensive effort, particularly in the first half was a big step for our team.
"It was really important for us to see we can perform at both ends of the floor without our best player. We're not just a bunch of sidekicks to what Taylor does – these girls can play defence, and they can hit shots. It was important for us to prove that tonight to ourselves."
The Cascades looked a little out of sorts early without Claggett – the score was 5-4 UFV after seven minutes of play. But the hosts steadied themselves at that point, and a Veronica Kobes layup and a Madison Draayers three-pointer gave them a 10-4 lead at the end of the first quarter.
UFV opened the second quarter on a 9-2 run highlighted by four points from Abby Zawada, and they continued to stretch the lead from there, building a 29-12 edge at the half. The Bobcats were held to 14.8 per cent shooting over the opening 20 minutes.
The Cascades pushed the lead to 20 points (37-17) after a pair of Kate Head free throws midway through the third, but the Bobcats mustered a fourth-quarter rally behind some hot shooting from Josie Degagne. The fourth-year guard came off the bench to score a team-high 17 points highlighted by five three-pointers, and three of those triples came in the final frame as Brandon cut the deficit to 59-53 in the final minute.
Head hit four free throws in the dying seconds, though, to salt away the win.
Abby Zawada paced the Cascades with 17 points and added seven rebounds and four assists, and Head (12 points) and Amanda Thompson (11) also scored in double figures. Victoria Jacobse hauled down a team-high nine rebounds.
"We had so much determination to start the game, and we used a lot of energy," Tuchscherer said. "We rolled kids off the bench, and they brought more and more energy. But by the end of the third and into the fourth, you could see we'd burned ourselves out a little bit there, and Brandon started coming on strong."
The Bobcats' Lauren Anderson had a double-double for the second straight night, posting 13 points and 11 boards, and Hailey Maas chipped in with eight points.
"Josie Degagne came off the bench and hit some shots for us, and that gave us life," Brandon head coach Novell Thomas said afterward. "We clawed and scratched our way back, but it was too much of a hole from the first half to really close that gap.
"We have some younger pieces who played big minutes for us, so it's just about executing and being on the same page. We're not there yet. The last week of practice was good, and today was okay in the game, especially in the second half. We've got to stay with the process and make sure we're executing."
The Cascades basketball teams are on action on the road next weekend, visiting the Victoria Vikes, while the Bobcats return home to host the Alberta Golden Bears and Pandas.