Cascades women’s hoopsters fend off furious comeback from Griffins, win 73-70

Taylor Claggett had a big night for the Cascades, scoring 19 points. (Cody Stewart / UFV Athletics photo).

The University of the Fraser Valley women’s basketball team was on cruise control through three quarters, but the MacEwan Griffins made them sweat it out down the stretch before the hosts secured a 73-70 victory on Friday at the Envision Athletic Centre.

The Cascades led by 24 points late in the third quarter behind a tremendous offensive performance from fifth-year guard/forward Kayli Sartori, who finished with a season-high 31 points. The Griffins, though, were undeterred – they battled all the way back to within a point (71-70) after their own fifth-year star, point guard Kendall Lydon, swished a high-arcing three-pointer from the right wing with nine seconds left in regulation.

MacEwan intentionally fouled UFV’s Sara Simovic on the ensuing inbounds, and she stepped to the free throw line and calmly drained both shots to provide the final margin of victory. The Griffins had a chance to tie it with another three, but were unable to get a shot off before the final buzzer.

The Cascades (6-3, tied for fifth in Canada West) and Griffins (4-7, tied for ninth) renew hostilities on Saturday evening at 5 p.m. at the EAC.

“We went into the fourth quarter up 19, and we really put on a clinic on how not to hold a lead,” UFV head coach Al Tuchscherer said afterward. “We defensive breakdowns, and a lot of trouble with their screen-and-roll action. The momentum slipped away from us, and they just seized it. All the credit to them – they just came at us hard, never quit.”

The Cascades had dropped seven of their previous eight conference games vs. MacEwan, but dominated the first three quarters. The hosts led 17-10 after the first quarter, 39-20 at the half, and 63-39 after rookie forward Jessica Zawada drained a triple with 44 seconds left in the third.

Sara Simovic’s six points included a pair of clutch free throws to help seal the victory. (Cody Stewart, UFV Athletics)

The Griffins responded with a 15-0 run bridging the third and fourth quarters, and they managed to hold the Cascades without a field goal for the entirety of the final frame. All 10 of UFV’s points came at the charity stripe.

Sartori was red-hot from downtown for the Cascades, going 5-for-6 from beyond the arc while collecting six rebounds, four assists, five steals and two blocks. The reigning Canada West scoring champ moved into second place in this season’s scoring race – she’s averaging 20.2 points per game, trailing only UBC’s Maddison Penn (21.6).

“It might have been one of Kayli’s better games tonight,” Tuchscherer noted. “She was good at both ends of the court – she rebounded, she blocked a few shots, and I thought she was really solid.”

UFV sophomore forward Taylor Claggett also had a big night, racking up 19 points, four rebounds, four assists and two steals. Lydon and Kayla Ivicak were a prodigious one-two punch for the Griffins, registering 22 and 21 points, respectively.

The foundation of MacEwan’s comeback was their work on the boards – they outrebounded the Cascades 42-30.

“I was really pleased with the first three quarters – it was a great way to start the second half of the season,” Tuchscherer said. “That can be a bit of a foundation piece for us, for sure, moving forward. As far as tomorrow goes, I’m sure MacEwan’s going to come in super-hungry knowing that they took it to us in the fourth quarter tonight. We’ve got to be ready to fight hard.”

BOUNCE PASSES: Following the game, the UFV athletic department honoured its first class of Cascades Hall of Famers. Inductees included builders Pat Lee and Jane Antil, women’s basketball athletes Carolyne Lucy and Tracy MacLeod, and the 1987-88 men’s basketball team.

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