Cascades take No. 1-ranked Cougars down to the wire, fall 68-60

Kate Head and the Cascades dropped a close game to the No. 1-ranked Regina Cougars.

The University of the Fraser Valley women’s basketball team pushed the No. 1-ranked team in the nation to the limit on Saturday evening, but the host Regina Cougars were able to claw out a 68-60 victory.

The Cascades, one night after dropping a 100-61 decision to the Cougars, turned in an outstanding defensive effort in the rematch, limiting the high-powered Regina squad to 31.3 per cent shooting from the field.

UFV, after trailing by as many as 10 points in the first quarter, battled back to erase the deficit in the second, hung tough in the third, and opened the fourth on a 10-0 run to seize a 54-49 lead. The Cougars responded with a 12-2 run of their own to surge ahead, but UFV senior guard Sara Simovic converted a clutch four-point play with a minute and a half left to cut the deficit to 61-60.

On the ensuing Regina possession, the Cascades played some solid defence highlighted by a blocked shot from Katelyn Mallette. But late in the shot clock, the Cougars tracked down a loose ball near midcourt and Michaela Kleisinger launched a desperation triple from well behind the arc. It splashed through to give the hosts a 64-60 lead with a minute left, and from there, they put the finishing touches on the win.

Regina improved to 4-0, while the Cascades are 2-4 in Canada West conference play.

“It’s disappointing to not get the W, but I’m really happy with how the girls bounced back and competed tonight,” UFV head coach Al Tuchscherer said afterward. “The last minute and a half was disappointing, but for the most part, that’s what you get when you’ve got a bunch of young kids out there.

“We grew a lot. Today we talked about how to beat Regina, and throughout the game, our timeouts were about what we wanted to do tactically. It wasn’t about effort – they brought that themselves tonight. I think that was an important step for us. They were motivated to play.”

For the second straight night, the Cascades were without leading scorer Shayna Litman due to injury. But they were undeterred, and got a terrific performance out of Simovic, who hit 4-of-6 attempts from three-point range en route to 15 points, to go with five rebounds and four assists. Taylor Claggett tied her for team-high scoring honours and added 10 rebounds for her second double-double of the season.

Rookie forward Mallette, starting for the second straight night in Litman’s absence, anchored the defence with an outstanding six-block effort. Jessica Zawada poured in 11 points off the bench, and Amanda Thompson had nine points and four steals.

Regina’s Kleisinger went 5-for-7 from beyond the arc to account for all of her 15 points, and star point guard Kyanna Giles matched her for team-high scoring honours, albeit on 3-for-13 shooting. Though the Cougars struggled offensively, they won the rebounding (43-35) and turnover (27-19) battles, which allowed them to hoist an additional 16 attempts from the field.

The Cascades basketball teams return to the Envision Financial Athletic Centre next weekend to host the Winnipeg Wesmen. Games run Friday (women 6 p.m., men 8 p.m.) and Saturday (women 5 p.m., men 7 p.m.).

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The University of the Fraser Valley is situated on the unceded traditional territory of the Stó:lō peoples. The Stó:lō have an intrinsic relationship with what they refer to as S’olh Temexw (Our Sacred Land); therefore, we express our gratitude and respect for the honour of living and working in this territory.

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