Kayli Sartori took over the game in the final minute, sparking the University of the Fraser Valley women’s basketball team to a 68-66 road win over the Brandon Bobcats on Saturday evening.
In the Cascades’ final conference game of the fall semester, Sartori saved her best for last. The fifth-year guard/forward from Chilliwack, B.C. scored a game-high 29 points, including the last four points of the contest at the free throw line. She also had a couple of clutch defensive plays in the dying seconds to help deliver the victory.
UFV improved to 5-3, good for sixth place in Canada West, while Brandon fell to 3-7.
“I think Kayli was not happy with her performance last night,” Cascades head coach Al Tuchscherer said afterward. “We really challenged her to be better tonight – we need her to be better, and she was. You could see she was focused all afternoon, and she made big plays. You saw her full skillset on display.”
The Bobcats had handled the Cascades 75-62 on Friday behind 37 points from Keisha Cox, and it looked to be more of the same early on Saturday – the hosts hit three of their first four attempts from beyond the arc and raced out to a 13-4 lead.
But the Cascades maintained their composure and responded with a 12-2 run, en route to a 37-35 lead at halftime. Much of their offensive mojo came from Sydney Williams, who went 4-for-4 from three-point range in the first half.
UFV pushed the lead to 52-41 midway through the third quarter after a Sartori and-one layup, but the Bobcats’ Mikaela Stanton heated up at that point – she scored nine points over the next five minutes, including a pair of three-pointers, to cut the deficit to 57-52 heading to the fourth.
The Cascades struggled offensively for much of the final frame, allowing the Brandon to find some traction. They reeled off an 8-0 run, capped by Stanton’s fifth triple of the night, to take a 62-60 lead with 2:40 remaining.
The Bobcats’ edge was 64-62 with less than a minute left after UFV’s Taylor Claggett secured a rebound in traffic after a three-point miss by Kylee Howard. Sartori got into the paint and drew a foul with 22 seconds left, and calmly swished both free throws to knot the score.
With the shot clock turned off, the last shot appeared to belong to the Bobcats, but Sartori stepped in front of a pass intended for Cox and bolted the other direction, ultimately drawing contact at the rim with 3.9 seconds left. Once again, she hit both free throws.
After a timeout, Brandon entered the ball to Cox in the post, but her shot over Sartori’s outstretched arms drew iron.
Sartori shot 9-of-13 from the field and 11-of-13 from the charity stripe for her 29 points, and she added eight rebounds, four steals, two assists and two blocks. Williams finished with 12 points and eight rebounds, and Claggett had 11 points and nine boards.
Stanton paced the Bobcats with 20 points, Lauren Anderson scored 11 off the bench, and Cox had 10 points on 5-of-16 shooting.
That Cox managed 27 fewer points than the night before was indicative of UFV’s defensive focus.
“Our game plan was pretty much the same as it was yesterday, we just executed it tonight,” Tuchscherer said. “Last night, we left whoever was defending Cox on an island, high and dry. In our video session this morning, we talked about needing five people to stop her and not just one, and I thought the girls really embraced that.
“It was a lot more focused effort tonight with way fewer defensive breakdowns, and we made some key plays down the stretch when we needed to. There was an opportunity for us to fade away when they took the two-point lead at the end, but I was proud of the girls for sticking with it and taking it home.”