Cascades’ comeback comes up short, Pandas hang on for three-point win

Kayli Sartori orchestrated a fourth-quarter rally, but the Alberta Pandas fended off the Cascades down the stretch. (UFV Athletics file photo).

A furious fourth-quarter comeback by the University of the Fraser Valley women’s basketball team erased all but one point of a double-digit deficit, but the Alberta Pandas hung on for a 56-53 win.

Playing at Edmonton’s Saville Sports Centre on Saturday evening, the Cascades found themselves down 25-18 after a defensive-minded first half, and the host Pandas expanded the lead to 13 points early in the fourth quarter.

UFV found its offensive mojo at that point – reigning Canada West scoring champ Kayli Sartori  led a dramatic rally that saw the Cascades draw to within 49-48 after Sartori hit a circus shot with 37 seconds left in regulation.

Alberta, though, was superb at the foul line from that juncture, hitting 7-of-8 free throws to close out the victory.

The Cascades fell to 8-6 in Canada West play, leaving them tied for eighth place, while the Pandas (14-2) banked their conference-leading 14th win.

“The thing I really like about our team is, we never give up,” UFV bench boss Al Tuchscherer said. “We go down early in the fourth, and we just kept on grinding. If you have that, you put yourself in position to win on the road in Alberta. For sure it would be nice to get that win, but there’s some good lessons we learned here today.”

The Pandas, coming off a 63-51 win on Friday, limited the Cascades to 29.2 per cent shooting from the field in the first half, and expanded the lead to 45-32 after back-to-back layups from Aimee Wilson and Megan Tywoniuk to open the fourth quarter.

Sartori caught fire at that point, though, racking up nine of her game-high 23 points in the final frame. Most memorable (and controversial) was the shot she hit in the final minute. The fifth-year guard/forward had the ball at the top of the key with the shot clock winding down, took a couple dribbles to her left heading toward the sideline, and heaved up a fall-away shot that somehow found the bottom of the net with 37 seconds remaining.

The shot was initially scored a three-pointer, which would have tied the game 49-49, but the officiating crew reversed the decision, surprising the Cascades and allowing the host Pandas to preserve a one-point lead. That forced UFV into a fouling situation, and Alberta finished the game off at the line.

As much as Sartori’s play was critical for the Cascades down the stretch, Tuchscherer pointed to rookie forward Jessica Zawada as being “the difference in the fourth quarter.” She scored five points and added an assist and a steal in the final frame.

“If we can get contributions like that from a few kids off the bench, it’ll make things easier for us,” Tuchscherer noted.

Sartori was the lone Cascade to score in double figures – Taylor Claggett chipped in with seven points and seven rebounds, and Zawada, Syd Williams and Shayna Litman finished with six points apiece.

Maddie Rogers registered a team-high 14 points for Alberta, to go with seven rebounds and five assists.

The Cascades basketball teams are back in action at home next weekend, hosting the Thompson Rivers WolfPack on Friday (women 6 p.m., men 8 p.m.) and Saturday (women 5 p.m., men 7 p.m.) at the Envision Athletic Centre.

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