This weekend features arguably a pair of the most important basketball games played here on the Thompson Rivers University campus since joining CIS. That is to say, TRU has never had a playoff basketball team, but our women's team have a chance to give themselves a little security at the eighth and final seed this weekend with a slate of home games against Calgary.
After a quick 7-3 start in a back-loaded schedule, the TRU WolfPack have lost eight straight games, but still find themselves in playoff position. The Calgary Dinos, who saw top teams Victoria, Winnipeg and Regina before the December break, have won three of five and find themselves at 6-10, effectively tied with the WolfPack using the 'games back' standings model.
While I think my frustrations at the way the WolfPack market their games on campus is probably served for a different platform than The CIS Blog, you'd figure there would be at least some buzz on campus for this game. Oh well.
It could be worse. At Brandon University, they have won six conference games since the start of the 2004 Canada West season.
The number one Saskatchewan Huskies solidified their #1 ranking with a pair of wins over the aforementioned WolfPack, 78-60 and 86-64. The league's best offense was paced by Katie Miyazaki, who had 6 assists in each game and 24 points over her 65 minutes. Jill Humbert and Kim Tulloch both put up 25 on the Friday night affair. With 17 on Saturday, Tulloch remains atop the league lead in scoring.
Saskatchewan climb to first place in Canada West over Alberta.
Previous number four Regina Cougars dropped a spot, thanks in part to a 65-63 Saturday overtime loss on the road to the Winnipeg Wesmen, despite Joanna Zalesiak's miracle half-court shot at the buzzer to send the game to the extra frame. Amy Ogidan scored 22 for Winnipeg before fouling out, and Stephanie Kleysen got her team's lone double-double with an 11-point, 17-board performance.
The Friday affair was also low scoring, even for two of the three best defenses in the Canada West. It was 54-49 in favour of the road squad, with Zalesiak scoring 18 and earning 12 rebounds (all defensive) and 19 points from Lindsay Ledingham. Kleysen had 15 more rebounds and now has a comfortable lead as the top rebounder in the league.
So both team's escape with a split. Winnipeg host Alberta this weekend, matching one of the league's best offenses against one of its best defenses, while Regina will travel to UFV, who are also trying to secure their playoff spot. While the Cougars lost a spot in the rankings, the Wesmen actually increased from 10th to 9th, overtaking conference rival Alberta.
Speaking of those Alberta Pandas, they managed just a single victory against the Manitoba Bisons this weekend. Despite coming into the weekend 3-13, the Bisons surprised Alberta on Friday with a 78-76 win... on the road no less. Despite not having as many assists or rebounds, Manitoba's shooters were strong. Kayla Klassen was 6-for-9, including 3-for-5 beyond the arc, with 15 points and Allison Balasko was 5-for-9 with 12. Klassen, along with teammate Mubo Ileleboye, hogged an astounding 37 minutes of floor time. Top scorer Marisa Haylett was out of the lineup for Alberta.
Haylett returned Saturday, and the scoreline reflected expectation with a 69-57 win for the Pandas. The Bisons went from shooting 54% to 37% while the Pandas went to the dirty areas and were rewarded with foul shots, 29 of them, and making good on 22. Georgia Popovici had 15 and three assists with five steals.
I alluded to the Brandon Bobcats up top, and, well, things didn't go better for them as they hosted the UBC Thunderbirds. They lost a pair of games, on Friday 64-51, a very modest 13-point defeat compared to an 83-23 shellacking on Saturday. They were held to single digits in every quarter but the second. Lia St. Pierre had a team-high nine assists out of the team's 23, and Devan Lisson had 20 points for the Thunderbirds.
UBC have a bye this weekend before traveling to Regina in an important set of games that could determine home court in the playoffs. Meanwhile, Brandon falls to 0-16 in conference play. As Rob pointed out last week, it's a good thing they had that 65-64 exhibition win against Manitoba back on October 8th, lest they go 0-for-the-season.
Also happening, the Victoria Vikes swept the Lethbridge Pronghorns 65-61 and 63-44, and Calgary won a pair over the TWU Spartans 80-62 and 70-64.