Story by Ali Lee, Vikes Communications / Images by Erich Eichhorn (ISN)
February 19th, 2016 Victoria, BC – Thanks to six three pointers from Amira Giannattasio the University of Victoria Vikes women’s basketball’s playoff picture remains in their favour and somewhat in their hands. The home side dropped the Brandon Bobcats 76-66 at the CARSA Performance Gym in Victoria to improve to an all-important 8-11 record.
Vike’s Amira Giannattasio sets up the play for her team carrying the ball. Giannattasio would finish with a game high 27 points. – Erich Eichhorn image (www.allsportmedia.ca)
Giannattasio finished the night with a game-high 27 points, 12 from beyond the arc, while fellow Hamilton, Ont. native Jenna Bugiardini added 22 points and 11 rebounds to the win.Kristy Gallagher added 12 points as the Vikes out-scored Brandon 45-27 in the second half.
Brandon was undoubtedly led by the talents of Alyssa Montgomery who totaled a double-double of 22 points and 11 rebounds. Team mate Keisha Cox added 20 points and nine rebounds. Brandon also had nine points and seven rebounds from fifth year Aleah Bridges.
“It was a hard fought game by both teams and we were both fighting for our lives,” said Vikes women’s basketball head coach Dani Sinclair after the win. “We knew it would be a grind out type of game and we played better defensively in the second half which was the key.”
In the opening quarter the Vikes were unable to take advantage of their easy looks giving room for fourth-year Brandon forward Montgomery to find her rhythm. The five-foot-eleven Bobcat silenced the Vikes putting up six early points despite some damage control from Vike Gallagher who had a three from the elbow drop. The Bobcats commanded the floor offensively, while the home side struggled, giving up four big turnovers. Montgomery finished the quarter with eight points, while fourth-year Vike Bugiardini had six as the Vikes trailed 20-15 entering the second frame.
Jenna Bugiardini isn’t afraid of a little contact taking the ball strong to the net between two Bobcat defenders – Erich Eichhorn image (www.allsportmedia.ca)
Despite recovering from some of Brandon’s damage in the first quarter, the Vikes dug themselves a steep hole in the second quarter, trailing Brandon by as much as 13. Giannattasio hit a key three-pointer to bring the score within 10, Brandon leading 37-27, and added another jumper to cut the lead to eight. Third-year Bobcat Montgomery continued to drive the key, earning herself another five points to bring her half-time total to 13 points. Vikes Bugiardini and Gallagher each totaled 10 points at the end of the half, while the Bobcats led 39-31 entering half time.
Giannattasio puts up one of her six succesful three pointers, shooting 50 percent from behind the arc – Erich Eichhorn image (www.allsportmedia.ca)
The home side turned the corner after the break going on a 7-0 stretch and denying Brandon any points in the first three minutes of play. Following two Bugiardini free throws, Giannattasio stepped back for her second trey of the night as Brandon led by one, up 39-38. With just over six minutes to play Gallagher put up a shot from the top of the arc but she rimmed out and first year Marissa Dheensaw picked up a gritty rebound and layup to give the Vikes their first lead of the half, up 40-39. Brandon’s first points of the quarter came from the line as Lauren Anderson salvaged two charity points as the Bobcats trailed 42-41.
Brandon recovered five-straight points as Cox and Montgomery had jumpers fall to give the home side just a one-point advantage, up 47-46. With under a minute to go Montgomery showed her power under the hoop getting her rebound twice, shaking off too Vikes defenders, to tie the game 50-50. On the next possession Giannattasio had a long three fall, her fourth of the game, to lift the Vikes 53-50 entering the final quarter.
Montgomery got on the board for three points for the visitors but after that it was all Victoria and more specifically, all Giannattasio. The Vikes went on a 17-1 run including a fifth and sixth three-pointer from last year’s Canada West Rookie of the Year. The Vikes’ defence stood strong to ward off the offensive efforts from Brandon’s Cox, Montgomery and Bridges. Bugiardini gained territory under the Bobcats’ hoop, adding two jumpers to bring the score to 74-58 in favour of the Vikes.
Vike’s Nicole Karstein rolls into the paint with the hook shot over Bobcat’s Keisha Cox – Erich Eichhorn image (www.allsportmedia.ca)
“These are like playoff games when you think about it and that can come with nerves so we talk about preparation and that is key when you come into these games,” added Sinclair. That helps the nerves fall away. That’s why you get up and have those morning practices and train as hard as you do each day. It seemed to pay off a little bit today and hopefully it will again tomorrow.”
Vikes fans celebrate during an intermission – Erich Eichhorn image (www.allsportmedia.ca)
The Vikes got job one of two done, winning with a final score of 76-66, meaning the Canada West playoffs are still within their grasps. A little help from the UBC Thunderbirds, who beat Winnipeg 77-57 tonight, helps make a better playoff scenario for the Vikes. If the Vikes can sweep the Bobcats, they will guarantee their spot in the playoffs and if the T-Birds also sweep, the Vikes will gain home-court advantage for the Play-In Series, set for Feb. 26-28. With lots of scenarios still on the line all teams will steer their attention to their final regular season game. Victoria and Brandon square off on Feb. 20 at 5:00 p.m. at the CARSA Performance Gym.