Story and Photos by Christian J. Stewart (ISN)
With Files from David Conlin, Vikes Communication
March 10, 2017, VICTORIA, BC (ISN) – It was a bittersweet moment Friday evening at the CARSA Performance Gym in Victoria, as the host UVic Vikes saw their 2016-2017 Women’s basketball season come to an end after a 78-64 loss to the 5th seeded Regina Cougars in the 2017 U SPORTS Women’s Final 8 consolation semifinal.
The loss marked the final game of their university basketball careers for 5th year Vikes Jenna Bugiardini, Jenna Krug and Nicole Karstein, who all exited the game near the end fighting back tears and to the loud applause of the many Vikes faithful who were on hand to cheer the team on.
Regina’s win pits them against the Canada West champion Saskatchewan Huskies in the consolation final, which will take place on Saturday night at 7:00 p.m., while the Vikes exit their first national tournament since 2004 without a victory. Earlier in the evening, the Huskies defeated Cape Breton 65-51 to send the Capers home, like the Vikes, with an 0-2 record in the Final 8 tournament.
U SPORTS Rookie of the Year Kyanna Giles led the Cougars in a trio of statistical categories on Friday night, registering 14 points, nine rebounds and six assists. That clutch performance earned her Regina’s Player of the Game award.
Second-year guard Avery Pearce tied with Giles in scoring, also finishing with 14 points and three rebounds. Third-year forward Christina McCusker and fifth-year guard Katie Polischuk both had 13 points, while Sara Hubenig followed Giles with six rebounds—five of which came in the offensive zone.
“We said all along that if we could get them into the half-court that we would be okay,” said Regina head coach Dave Taylor. “When we got into trouble is when we gave them an offensive rebound or in transition. As soon as we made them play half-court offence we were pretty comfortable that we could stop them.”
In a fashion reflecting the true warrior that she is, the Vikes Bugiardini went out in her final game on a high note, leading the Vikes in scoring with 25 points and adding six rebounds through her 32 minutes of play. Bugiardini was named Victoria’s Player of the Game, a fitting send-off for an athlete who has given her all to the Vikes’ program.
Amira Giannattasio also had a strong game for the Vikes, potting 19 points, including a trio from 3-point range. Karstein and Krug finished their time in blue and gold in quieter than normal fashion, finishing with seven and three points respectively.
“That will be a hole to fill for sure,” said Vikes Head Coach Dani Sinclair of Bugiardini graduating. “She is efficient, sometimes you don’t notice it when you are watching her play, but then you look at the stat sheet and she is always producing. It was so special for her and the other two [Karstein and Krug] to have an opportunity to play in a national tournament.”
Victoria got off to another slow start on Friday night, shooting 33.3 per cent from the field, and Regina took advantage, knocking down 52.9 per cent of their shots and three-of-six from beyond the arc. Fifth year Katie Polischuk led the Cougars with five points in the first quarter to help her team take a 21-17 lead into the second frame.
But the Vikes adjusted between quarters, tightening up their defence to hold Regina to a 25 per cent success rate from the floor. The result was a much closer game heading into the second half, with the score at 32-31 Regina at the break.
The Vikes would battle hard to keep pace with the Cougars, evening the score at 41-41 with just over three minutes to play in the third quarter, but the Cougars would take the game over from that point, holding a 55-47 lead after three and then outscoring the Vikes 23-17 in the fourth to close out the win.
The Cougars were also able to limit Victoria’s shooting success in all four quarters, as the Vikes never hit more than 40 per cent of their shots in any one frame, finishing at just 33%S overall from the field. Regina finished with a 52-37 edge on the boards, including a 33-17 edge in their own zone.
“We had a big rebounding advantage but I still thought we gave up too many offensive rebounds,” said Taylor. “When we rebound we’re just way better, it makes such a big difference.”
For Sinclair, it was a tough end to a long-anticipated tournament.
“In terms of the game, it was disappointing obviously,” she said. “We wanted to extend our season, especially with how great the crowd has been here and all the support we’ve received, so it’s disappointing for it to finish.”
The battle of Saskatchewan will be on full display beginning at 7:00 p.m. on Saturday night, when Regina takes to the court against their provincial rival. That game can be watched live on sportscanada.tv/usports.
Prior to that game, the semi-finals take centre stage, with Queen’s and Laval starting things off at 2:00 pm, followed by McGill and Carleton at 4:00 pm.
The winners of those games will meet in the Championship final at 1:00 pm on Sunday. THe Bronze medal game will take place prior to that at 10:00 am.
The Saturday semi-finals and Sunday’s final will all be televised on Sportsnet 360 / SN Now).