After a thrilling run, the University of the Fraser Valley women’s basketball team’s playoff bandwagon finally ran out of gas on Saturday afternoon in Saskatoon, as the Cascades dropped a 78-69 decision to the reigning national champion Saskatchewan Huskies.
The Huskies, seeded No. 1 in the Canada West playoff bracket, were heavily favoured in the best-of-three conference quarter-final series, and they lived up to that billing on Thursday with a 78-55 Game 1 victory. The Cascades, though, bounced back with an impressive performance in a 74-62 Game 2 triumph on Friday, improving to 3-0 when facing elimination this post-season. (Previously, UFV had come from behind to defeat the Calgary Dinos in the first round.)
But on Saturday, the Huskies stretched a one-point halftime lead to double digits in the third quarter, and had an answer for every UFV surge down the stretch.
Saskatchewan will host the Canada West Final Four, while the Cascades’ season is over.
“I’m just more proud of our girls than anything,” UFV head coach Al Tuchscherer said afterward. “To play six games in nine days, and four of them are do-or-die, it takes a lot out of you physically and mentally. We’re leaving this season without a lot of gas left in the tank, and that’s kind of what you want to do.”
The Cascades were not just exhausted, they were a banged-up group heading into Game 3. Fourth-year forward Shayna Litman was involved in a collision in the dying moments of Game 2 was taken to the hospital immediately post-game with back spasms. She didn’t get back to the team hotel until 3:30 a.m., but was able to loosen things up enough to play on Saturday and gave the Cascades nine points and four rebounds in 31 minutes.
“I’m really proud of her for even going today, and the effort she put in,” Tuchscherer said of Litman. “They tried to go at her a little bit, but she kept digging in.”
Huskies point guard Sabine Dukate opened the game with back-to-back three-pointers, but the Cascades got a pair of triples from Syd Williams in the first quarter and were within striking distance at the end of the frame, down 22-18. The hosts pulled ahead by as many as eight points in the second, but UFV responded with a 12-3 run and were within 33-32 at halftime.
The Huskies surged ahead by nine points in the third quarter, but back-to-back triples from rookies Amanda Thompson and Victoria Jacobse cut the deficit to 55-52 late in the frame. Sask’s Megan Ahlstrom answered with five quick points in the final minute to push the advantage back to 60-52 heading to the fourth, and the closest the Cascades got from that juncture was four points. A pair of Kayli Sartori free throws cut the margin to 62-58 with 5:42 left in regulation, but a 10-2 Huskies run sealed the result.
Taylor Claggett had a huge game for the Cascades, going 13-for-16 from the free throw line en route to 19 points to go with nine rebounds. Williams finished with 11 points, while Sartori registered 10 points, six assists and five rebounds.
Sask’s Dukate and Summer Masikewich tied Claggett for game-high scoring honours with 19 points, and Ahlstrom finished with 18 points.
“You could see us kind of hit a wall in the third quarter,” Tuchscherer said. “We started to break down mentally a little bit, and Saskatchewan really took advantage of those breakdowns. But the girls just fought hard right to the end of the game.”
Saturday’s result marked the end of Sartori’s distinguished Cascades career, and Litman is likely to hang up her hightops as well – she’s set to complete her degree over the summer.