Matt Johnson, Huskie Athletics
SASKATOON – The University of Saskatchewan Huskies women's basketball team is one win away from their sixth consecutive Canada West Championship appearance after a 74-62 win over the Lethbridge Pronghorns on Thursday, Feb. 21 on Ron & Jane Graham Centre Court at the PAC.
"I thought we started to move the ball a bit better and get defensive stops. I thought in the first half they were just so hot from three that we couldn't get a stop to get out in transition," said Huskies head coach Lisa Thomaidis on how her team was able to pull away late. "We moved the ball, got some touches inside for Summer and she started to make some plays in the second half."
Canada West second-team all-star Summer Masikewich led the way for Saskatchewan with 22 points on 9-17 shooting, to go along with 12 rebounds. Katriana Philipenko had 13 points while Kelsey Lalor tacked on 10.
"Summer started a little slow, had some looks at the rim and just couldn't knock them down. She warmed up in the second half and was huge for us, got us into the game with a few and-ones and I thought she played great defence at the other end so just an all-around great performance from her," said Thomaidis.
Asnate Fomina, Jessica Zarowny, and Kacie Bosch all were in the double-digits in points for the Pronghorns. Fomina led the way with 15 points, six assists, and three rebounds. Bosch registered a double-double for the visitors with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
"It's all about consistency when you're playing in the playoffs," said Pronghorns head coach Dave Waknuk. "We had a pretty good game plan, and I thought we stuck to it through three quarters but couldn't stay with it through four quarters. When you make mistakes against a good team like this, you're going to pay for it."
Saskatchewan hopped out in front early, as Kyla Shand came off of the bench moments into the first quarter, and immediately forced her presence on the Pronghorns. The second-year forward turned a pair of post-ups into quick buckets to give the Huskies a quick 8-3 advantage.
However, Lethbridge was able to strike back and eventually took a 17-15 lead after Fomina three-pointer.
Saskatchewan responded with a 6-0 run to close the quarter to take the lead back off the back of a Carly Ahlstrom three-pointer and a Philipenko and-one play to give the Huskies a 21-17 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Lethbridge's hot three-point shooting allowed them to keep hanging around, as Fomina and Danielle Fritzke combined to knock down three jumpers from beyond-the-arc in the second quarter.
After a quiet first quarter Sabine Dukate, who was announced as a Canada West first-team all-star earlier in the day, got hit on the way up and still knocked down the jumper, plus the free-throw to complete the three-point play to give Saskatchewan a 33-30 lead. The Huskies went into halftime with a 36-32 lead despite shooting 3-13 from downtown in the first half.
The Pronghorns cut into the lead early in the second half after they turned defence into offence. After Fomina picked up a monstrous block, Jessica Zarowny found her way onto a loose ball and laid it in. On the following possession, Katie Keith made a layup of her own to tie the game 36-36.
Lalor, who was fresh off a dominant 21-point performance against the Winnipeg Wesmen in game one of the quarter-final, pulled up from the parking lot and knocked down the long-range jumper. Moments later, she spotted a streaking Masikewich in transition, who laid the ball off the glass and in to give Saskatchewan a 43-41 lead.
After a quiet first half, Masikewich caught the rock in the low-post and went to work as she backed down her defender and got the circus layup to go for the hoop and the harm. Minutes later, Dukate fed a leaking Maskiweich for the easy two and followed that up on the next possession with a pair of free throws after drawing contact to give Saskatchewan a seven-point lead.
Philipenko came alive late in the third quarter as the Saskatoon product converted a lay-in in transition, then knocked down an open look from downtown to give the Huskies a 57-48 advantage through thirty minutes of action. The Huskies outscored the Pronghorns 21-16 in the frame, to
Fomina continued to lead the Pronghorns as she connected from long-range to cut the lead to six. However, just moments later, the Huskies drilled a three of their own as Philipenko restored the nine-point lead.
Saskatchewan's defence took over in the fourth quarter, as the team was able to get out and running with Brianna Fehr and Dukate each recording breakaway lay-ups on back-to-back possessions to make the score 61-54 in favour of the home side.
Lethbridge was unable to claw their way back into the game late in the fourth quarter, as the visitors shot 5-14 from the field and 1-6 from beyond-the-arc in the fourth, which helped Saskatchewan squeeze out the victory.
The Huskies will attempt to close out the series tomorrow night at the PAC. Meanwhile, the Pronghorns will fight for their season as they attempt to force a third and deciding game.
"We scored 74 but I didn't think our offence was very good at all and I think defensively we have lots to improve on so I expect a much better performance than this and Lethbridge will be putting it all on the line as well. I think both teams will be better than tonight and hopefully, we will be a bit sharper," said Thomaidis.