(ISN) – Kamloops, BC—It took them four years but the Thompson Rivers University WolfPack finally have a playoff victory in Canada West women’s basketball.
And it couldn’t have come at a more opportune time. The WolfPack squared up their best of three quarterfinal series by taking the visiting University of Victoria Vikes 97-86 in overtime. The affair is tied at one.
It forces a third and deciding game Saturday (Feb 28) at the Warner Rentals Court at the Tournament Capital Centre in Kamloops, BC.
“This was the biggest victory by far since I came to TRU,” stated WolfPack head coach Scott Reeves. “To win in the playoffs is something we have never done. To do it in dramatic fashion is always kind of cool. It is one of the high points of my entire coaching career.”
“We are two pretty evenly matched teams,” said Vikes head coach Dani Sinclair. “We have proven that so far. I think both coaches are looking for a bit more defense but it made it exciting for the crowd.”
The WolfPack erased a 21-19 first quarter deficit with a 9-0 run to end the first half trailing by six (40-34).
“I thought we did a good job of taking the lead in the game but we made some bad decisions and let the momentum swing,” Sinclair stated about what happened late in the first half and into the second. “We can’t let that happen in someone else’s gym. We have to play smarter if we want a chance to put them away.”
In the third quarter: TRU outgunned the Vikes 29-25 with Kassie Colonna (third year, forward, Invermere, BC) scoring 13 points of her game and career high 35. “Colonna took control of the game and took command down low and we decided not to guard her at times which was an interesting strategy.” quipped Sinclair.
“We talked about having to climb back in,” Reeves stated. “Just the heart and character of this group. They were down 15 and came back. They were not going to go away. We have good balance. Jorri is a fifth year. Taiysa is a fourth year. Kass is a third year and all these freshmen who work so hard in practice. It has been a whole team environment that we have embraced that everyone has been contributing. It has really been very special.”
Down three in the last minute, Taiysa Worsfold (fourth year, guard, Kamloops, BC) sent the game into overtime as she hit a three point shot at the top of the arc with three seconds left to square things at 82.
“The ball was supposed to go to Jorri but she wasn’t open,” Worsfold said about the shot. “I tried to get it into Sarah (Malate, fourth year, guard, Calgary,AB). But she didn’t have the shot. I called for the ball and hoped I could make the play. I am glad it worked out. I was a little scared but we have a great team. I knew Scott would call the right play and I have confidence in whoever was going to be shooting. We work well together as a team and always try and find someone open.”
“This is what we have been working towards since I got here,”she said about the victory. “So many times we lost in the playoffs. It’s been so upsetting. Finally everyone came to play. I am proud how everyone played today. We gave it a lot of heart and had a lot of character.”
Worsfold wound up with 23 points on the evening. When asked if she was happy she got to take the winning shot, she bashfully said. “I was terrified. I was hoping Jorri would take it. But if I had to do it, I will take it.”
In the extra period: the WolfPack went on a 9-0 win to secure the victory. It included two key baskets by Emma Piggin (first year, guard, Kamloops, BC). The final one being a drive to the basket with 46.9 seconds left. Piggin had a ‘double and double’: 16 points and 11 rebounds.
Jorri Duxbury (fifth year, guard, Salmon Arm, BC) had 15 for the ‘Pack. “She means so much to their team no matter if she puts the ball in or not,” Sinclair explained. “She runs the show. She does so many things that are not on the stats sheet. They have a lot of weapons so you can’t focus on one or two players.”
Victoria was led by Jessica Renfrew (fifth year, forward, Victoria, BC) with 26 points. Jenna Bugiardini (third year, forward, Hamilton, ON) contributed 24 points while Cassandra Goods (fifth year, guard, Penticton, BC) added 16.
Game three will be played at 5 pm at the TCC and will be shown on CanadaWest.TV.
“It is going to be close and a grind it out affair,” Worsfold predicts. ” They have a lot of fifth years on their team who don’t want to go home empty handed. Same with us. It is going to be a battle like it was tonight. I have confidence in my team and I think we can do it.”
“Now is the playoffs and this is what everyone plays the entire year for,” stated Reeves when asked about game three. ” It is three times longer than the high school season. Some of these young kids are wondering how they can still play. But when you get this close to the end, you don’t want it to slip away. These are opportunities that we try to sell the kids on: that this may never come again and they have to take advantage of it.”
DOUBLE DRIBBLES: Worsfold on the WolfPack’s second half surge: “I just didn’t want this to be Jorri’s last game. She has been such an amazing player for us. We were down big in the second quarter. Everyone worked hard to make sure she got to play another day.”