After a hard-fought battle that didn't see the Huskies claim a lead (beyond their 2-0 start with the first basket of the game) until the 4th quarter, Saskatchewan clawed their way back from as much as a nine point deficit to claim the Canada West gold medal (just the second in Huskies women's basketball history). They beat their cross-province rivals the Regina Cougars in front of a packed-to-capacity PAC crowd on Saturday, after downing the UFV Cascades on Friday night.
In the Canada West semifinals on Friday, the Cougars met up with the University of Alberta Pandas while the Huskies battled the visiting Abbotsford-based Cascades. In the first semifinal game, the Cougars never built up more than a ten point lead in a game that was a back-and-forth battle throughout. After relinquishing their sole lead in the first quarter, the Pandas kept things close and managed to take a two point advantage early in the fourth following a pair of Katie Arbuthnot free throws. This small gain inevitably spelled the end for the Pandas, however, as Regina went on a quick 8 point run to take the lead once and for all. For the Cougars, Lindsay Ledingham led all scorers with 21 points, while Zalesiak, Gheyssen and Chamberlin added 16, 15 and 10 respectively. The Pandas were topped off by a 14-point performance by Marissa Haylett, while Bakker, Asleson and Popovici all contributed double-digit totals as well. The Cougars topped the Pandas by a four-point deficit, 72-68.
On the Huskies side, second-year-running Canada West Defensive Player of the Year Katie Miyazaki led her team with a remarkable triple double, tallying 10 points, 15 rebounds and 11 assists on the night. Canada West First Team All-star and Sylvia Sweeney Award recipient Jill Humbert led all scorers with 23, while Canada West MVP Kim Tulloch added 11 points and Kiselyk and Spindler chalked up 16 and 14 as well. For the Cascades, Alyssa Gaukel led her team with 17 points, Tessa Klassen noched 12, and Sarah Wierks totalled 10 rebounds. The final score: 88-59 in the Huskies' favour.
In the bronze medal match, Alberta dealt with yet another close contest but this time managed to come away the victor, with a 7-point 77-64 win over the Cascades. The Pandas were once again led by Haylett wit an 18-point performance, and Popovici and Hillier added twelve apiece. The Cascades managed only two double-digit scorers, Klassen and Luyken, who added 21 and 16 points respectively.
In the gold medal match, it was truly a "battle of Saskatchewan" as the visiting Regina Cougars were met by a thundering crowd of nearly 2300 fans as they took on the hometown Huskies. Despite going 0-2 against the Huskies in league play, Regina led for the majority of the contest, leaving Saskatchewan with only one lead -- 2-0 on the first basket of the game -- heading in to the fourth quarter. The back-and-forth battle was punctuated by huge fast breaks by the Huskies and equally enormous (but certainly not equidistant) three point shots from the Cougars, who led by as much as nine points midway through the third. Despite some shaky free throw shooting at the end, however, and some big threes by Joanna Zalesiak and Carly Graham late in the 4th, the Huskies held on to their lead and were crowned 2011 CW Champions with a final score of 77-74. Marci Kiselyk led all scorers with 20 points, while Huskie teammates Tulloch, Humbert and Miyazaki totalled 17, 15 and 11 respectively. For the visiting Cougars, Gabrielle Gheyssen led her team with 17, and Ledingham, Graham and Zalesiak each added double digits of their own (16, 15 and 12).
The Huskies will enter the national tournament in Windsor, Ontario with the first place ranking as well as CW Defensive Player of the Year, Canada West Sylvia Sweeney Award nominee, Canada West first team all-star, Canada West MVP, and Canada West Coach of the Year honours.