By Ali Lee, Vikes Communications

(ISN) – VICTORIA, B.C. – The University of Victoria Vikes women’s basketball team fought through a three-game quarter-final series to punch their ticket to the Canada West Final Four for the first time since 2007. The Vikes needed every last second on Feb. 28 to come away with the 77-77 heart-stopping victory and ultimately take the best-of-three series over the Thompson Rivers WolfPack in Kamloops, B.C.

The Vikes were undoubtedly led by fifth-year point guard Cassandra Goodis, who was clear that she didn’t want her last game in a Vikes uniform to be today. Goodis put up a team-high 20 points and hauled down six boards and had four steals. Third year Jenna Bugiardini was a force in the paint finishing with 16 points and a team-high eight rebounds. Fourth year Shaylyn Crisp had 10 points and dropped the crowd-silencing three-pointer that won the Vikes the game with 0.2 seconds left on the clock.

For the WolfPack their fearless leader Jorri Duxbury was getting the job done in both ends to finish her final CIS career game with 22 points and eight rebounds. The Canada West First Team All-Star was outstanding all series. Rookie Emma Piggin had a strong first half and finished the night with 15 points, while Taiysa Worsfold had 13 points and six rebounds.

“I think we could play ten games in a row and it would be a similar ending,” explained Victoria head coach Dani Sinclair. “A lot of respect for TRU. Scott Reeves is a great coach and they have a great coaching staff. My heart breaks for Jorri (Duxbury, fifth year, guard, Salmon Arm, BC). I have watched her over the last five years. She is an incredible player. It is sad to see that team knocked out because they had a great season. They are obviously very close but of course I am so happy for our team.”

From Game 1 on Feb. 26 to the final seconds of today’s Game 3 affair it was back and forth between these two teams who had yet to meet prior to this series due to the new regular season format. The game changed leads 15 times, while it was tied up 14 times. The largest lead never broke five points for either team until the WolfPack went up by seven with 4:46 left to go in the fourth quarter.

“I don’t know if you could explain this weekend,” Sinclair responded when asked what the difference in this third game was. “Both teams had trouble breaking loose and getting stretches. Tonight, we would get up five and they would come back. Then they would go up five and we would come back. We were lucky to have it at the right time.”

The opening quarter saw a strong performance from Bugiardini who led the Vikes with 10 points, while Goodis and Giannattasio put up eight each. Piggin had 12 points in the opening frame for Thompson Rivers, while Duxbury dropped 11. It was a quarter of three pointers as the Vikes dropped five long bombs, while the WolfPack were 3-for-7. Victoria edged the home side 20-18 entering the second.

Thompson Rivers found their shooting strides in the second quarter out-scoring Victoria 19-16 thanks to the hands of Duxbury who had seven points in the quarter. Goodis had a three drop to get the Vikes out in front 30-29 but only for seconds as Kassie Colonna’s free throw tied the game at 30. Back-to-back threes from WolfPack shooters Michelle Bos and Duxbury got the WolfPack up by two, 36-34, but in Victoria’s last possession Goodis put in a long two to bring TRU’s lead to 37-36 entering half time.

The second half was non-stop action as the WolfPack out-scored Victoria 19-17 in the third. Duxbury’s late heroics on a three-point shot got the home side up by three, 56-53 entering the fourth.

Baskets seemed to drop in both ends of the court on every possession as the teams stayed very closely in check. With 4:46 left in the game Piggin gave Thompson Rivers their largest lead of the night, up 69-62. The Vikes continued to chip away as two critical free throws made from Crisp at the 1:30 marker proved to be a turning point.

On Thompson Rivers’ next possession they turned it over, giving Victoria another rush at the hoop, where Amira Giannattasio’s jumper cut TRU’s lead to one, 73-72. Duxbury went back the other way but her layup bounced off the rim and Goodis set up Crisp going the other way but the fourth year’s distance attempt wouldn’t drop.

With 33 seconds on the clock the Vikes called a time out and on the in-bound play found none other than Goodis who knocked back a jumper to give the Vikes the lead they needed, up 74-73.

As if time couldn’t tick away any slower, Thompson Rivers called a time out and with possession in the front court got the ball in the hands of Bos who made a layup to give the home side the lead, up 75-74.

In Victoria’s last possession, with 20 seconds on the clock, Goodis fed Bugiardini who put it in the hands of Crisp on the perimeter. Crisp’s left-handed three-pointer found nothing but net to give the Vikes a thrilling 77-75 victory and ultimately a spot in the Canada West Final Four.

“This is big,” added Sinclair about qualifying for the conference semifinals. “It is a big accomplishment but I think that if we can start defending we have an opportunity to beat anybody. I am going to let this sink in before we start thinking of next week. This was a crazy weekend. I am proud of our girls but hats off to the TRU team.”

The Vikes will now gear up to play the Saskatchewan Huskies in their semifinal crossover match at the Final Four, hosted next weekend, Mar. 6-7, at UBC’s War Memorial Gym in Vancouver, B.C.

TRU: 18-19-19-19 : 75
UVIC: 20-16-17-24 : 77

TRU: Jorri Duxbury (22), Emma Piggin (15), Taiysa Worsfold (13)
UVIC: Cassandra Goodis (20), Jenna Bugiardini (16) Amira Giannattasio (15), Shaylyn Crisp (10)