Giannattasio buzzer beater gives Vikes thrilling victory

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By: Ardalan Ramezani, Vikes Communications

(ISN) – VICTORIA, B.C.- The University of Victoria Vikes completed a home sweep over the Lethbridge Pronghorns in a thrilling final match that was decided by a Amira Giannattasio buzzer-beating jumper. The Vikes sealed the victory 80-78 over the Pronghorns, improving their record to 9-7, while the Pronghorns drop to 4-12.

Four Vikes posted double-digits with fifth-year forward Jessica Renfrew earning a double-double, as she topped the scoreboard with 23 points and 10 rebounds. The most thrilling performance came from rookie standout Giannattasio, whose jumper under pressure captured the final-second win. Giannattasio was rewarded with 20 points for her efforts, while third-year Jenna Bugiardini and Penticton-native Cassandra Goodis finished with 16 and 13 points, respectively.

For the Pronghorns, fifth-year veteran Kimberly Veldman and fourth-year guard Allexia Barros showed their experience and leadership with standout performances. Barros topped the team with 30 points, while Veldman contributed 24. Second-year Mariah Miller also logged double digits, scoring 11 points.

“Coach always says to just keep shooting and don’t think about it and that’s what I did,” said an overwhelmed Giannattasio seconds after the game. “We needed to be more consistent and tonight we were. We had a lot of mental toughtness and came back hard. It’s so surreal. I have no words for how I feel right now.”

The Pronghorns came out swinging from the first whistle, knowing that they needed a victory in order to keep their Canada West playoff hopes alive. Veldman and Barros provided the Pronghorns with plenty of intensity and offensive strength as they both contributed eight points in the first quarter. Struggling to find their composure against the tough Pronghorns defence, the Vikes made poor shot choices, scoring on only four baskets of their 20 field goal attempts. At the end of the quarter, the Pronghorns held the lead 20-15.

In the second, the Vikes still struggled with their shot percentage, but their quick defence-to-offense transitions helped them stay in the game. Although Lethbridge held the tempo for the majority of the quarter, a steal and jumper in the final seconds by fifth-year guard Goodis put the Vikes within a two-point reach of the Pronghorns, down 36-34 at half time.

The Vikes came out with much more intensity in the third quarter, creating a back-and-forth affair between both sides. Fifth-year centre Renfrew, kindled her spark and contributed 13 points to the scoreline for the Vikes. Despite a 57-57 even score, a late turnover by the Vikes allowed for Barros to put up a jumper and one to give the Pronghorns the three-point lead going into the final stage.

The end-to-end affair intensified in a thrilling final quarter, as both teams continued to answer each other’s baskets. Guard Giannattasio stood out for the Vikes, scoring nine points in the fourth and helping the home team capture a seven-point lead in the last five minutes of the game. A relentless Barros managed to trim the lead, particularly when she capitalized on a crowd-silencing three to even the scoreline with just one minute left.

With one minute to play, third-year Vikes forward Nicole Karstein responded to Barros by draining two free-throw attempts for a two-point Vikes lead. Much like the theme of the entire second half, Veldman was back at it sinking a jumper to even the score, 78-78, with just seven seconds remaining. The Vikes took full advantage of their final possession, swinging the ball to Giannattasio whose jumper at the buzzer-beater basket sent the crowd into fits as the Vikes earned the 80-78 win.

Goodis totaled five assists in the game, putting her just seven assists away from breaking the Canada West all-time assists record held by Simon Fraser’s Lani Gibbons. Gibbons had 178 assists in her five seasons that ended in 2009. Goodis totaled 429 assists in her first four seasons and has 104 in this season, bringing her all-time total to 533.

Up next, the Vikes will travel to Saskatchewan for a double-header against the Brandon Bobcats on Feb. 6-7. The Pronghorns head back to home court to take on Saskatchewan in back-to-back games. All games will be streamed with live video and stats at canadawest.tv

SCORING SUMMARY
UVIC: 15-19-3-23: 80
LETH: 20-16-24-18: 78

SCORING LEADERS
UVIC: Jessica Renfrew (23), Amira Giannattasio (20), Jenna Bugiardini (16), Cassandra Goodis (13)
LETH: Alexis Barros (30), Kim Veldman (24), Mariah Miller (11)