VICTORIA – The University of Victoria Vikes women’s basketball team held off a pesky Trinity Western University Spartans’ squad for an 87-82 victory inside the CARSA Performance Gym Saturday night in Victoria.
“Tonight’s game was a tough one – obviously a lot of offence for both teams but some of our defensive habits were exposed and we paid the price for not being able to make adjustments. I was proud of the fight that we had at the end – even a few weeks ago we would have caved under the weight of having two key players foul out and would have lost the game by a larger margin, but to only lose by two possessions says a lot about everyone’s belief in what we are doing,” commented TWU head coach Cheryl Jean-Paul. “Kayla has shown a lot of consistency and leadership over the last three weekends of league play and that has been a catalyst for our victories. We look forward to getting back in the gym this week and working through some of the gaps that Victoria attacked and improving for next weekend. We continue to take it one game and a time.”
Fouls were a key decider in the contest, with 49 of them called in the game. Kayla Gordon and Tessa Ratzlaff of the Spartans both fouled out of the game early in the fourth quarter with Nicole Karstein of the Vikes following suit soon after.
“We’ve played these guys it seems like a ton of times in the last twelve months, we are two pretty evenly matched teams, especially in the post,” said Vikes head coach Dani Sinclair. “That makes for a very physical game with lots of fouls going both ways.”
For the second night in a row TWU’s Natalie Carkner was a sharp shooter for the Spartans, finishing the game with 18 points while going four-for-five from beyond the arc. Gordon finished with 17 points before her night ended early due to fouls and Jessie Brown added 17 points while shooting 50 per cent from three-point range.
“Credit to them, they shoot the ball so well that they can make up ground quickly, they hit some tough shots with a hand in their face,” said Sinclair of the Spartans.
The Vikes three-pronged attack of Amira Giannattasio, Jenna Bugiardini and Karstein were in fine form on the night. Giannattasio scored a game-high 26 points, Karstein scored 23 on while shooting ten-for-14 from the field and Bugiardini added 21 points and nine rebounds.
With Karstein fouling out and Giannattasio and Bugiardini both finishing the game with four fouls, it was a balancing act for the Vikes scorers between staying aggressive but limiting their fouls.
“We had to play through some of that and I think it was great that we stayed aggressive and were able to capitalize on that,” said Sinclair.
The game was played at a much quicker pace than when the teams played one night ago, with both offences clicking right from the start.
The Vikes were in the lead for a vast majority of the first three quarters but were never able to stretch that lead to double-digits. Anytime it looked like some separation was growing between the teams, the Spartans would heat up from three-point land, finishing the game shooting 42.9 per cent from long-range as a team.
The Spartans had their biggest lead of the game when they went up by four points at the start of the fourth quarter. The Vikes would charge right back to tie up the game before disaster struck for the Spartans, with both Gordon and Ratzlaff fouling out early in the frame.
The Vikes took a lead they would never relinquish after the two Trinity Western players were ejected, but the Spartans still refused to go away, keeping things close until the final minute of the game.
“Everyone else still tried to fight through it and give ourselves an opportunity, and that’s all we can ask for,” said Jean-Paul.
A Vikes offence that was limited to just 60 points one night ago, exploded for 87 points in the game, 22 of which came in the final frame.
“We were more fluid, we shared the ball, moved the ball and also moved better off the ball,” said Sinclair. “We still need to figure out when we want to push the pace and when we want to slow it down, our decision making when we had the lead there was again not great.”
One night after they were unable to close out a game in the fourth quarter, the Vikes stepped up their execution at the most important time.
“We did a good job of hitting free throws and getting stops at the end of the game when we needed to,” said Sinclair.
The loss drops the Spartans record to 10-6, they are in action next weekend when they travel to Calgary to take on the Mount Royal Cougars on February 3 and 4.
“To get out of Victoria with a split is a positive,” said Jean-Paul. “To play in two close games where every possession and turnover matters is how good teams continue to get better, we have a lot to work through but we have a lot to work with.”
The Vikes jump to 11-5, and are now in sole possession of sixth place in Canada West. They will head out on the road next weekend for a pair of games in Abbotsford against the Fraser Valley Cascades.