Spartans pull away late, knock off Cascades women’s hoopsters 66-57

UFV’s Taylor Claggett looks for an open teammate on Thursday night at the LEC. (Scott Stewart / TWU Athletics photo)

The Trinity Western Spartans pulled away in the dying minutes to defeat the University of the Fraser Valley women’s basketball team 66-57 on Thursday evening at the Langley Events Centre.

The local rivals battled tooth and nail all night – the Spartans edged ahead in the second half, but the Cascades kept clawing their way back into it. UFV was within six points (60-54) after Kate Head’s layup off a slick feed from Taylor Claggett with just under three minutes left in regulation, but the Spartans responded with a 6-0 run, aided by back-to-back UFV turnovers, to push the lead to double digits and salt the game away.

The Spartans improved to 9-2, good for fourth in Canada West, and they’re a perfect 7-0 at home. The Cascades fell to 4-9.

Shayna Litman looks for daylight against tight defence from TWU’s Kayla Gordon.

The two programs head east on the Trans-Canada Highway on Friday evening to renew hostilities at UFV’s Envision Financial Athletic Centre. Tip-off is at 6 p.m., followed by the men’s game at 8 p.m. (CanadaWest.tv).

“For the most part, it was a good road game for us,” Cascades head coach Al Tuchscherer said. “We did a lot of what we wanted to do. We just didn’t have enough push at the end to get it done.

“It’s just our end-of-game execution – it’s been kind of a recurring theme this year. We’ve really struggled at that time of the game, and tonight was more of the same. When you need a stop, there’s a defensive breakdown. Or when you need a score, but we come out and we’re disorganized for some reason. Those things are just backbreakers.”

The first half was defensively oriented, with the Spartans leading 10-8 and 23-21 at the quarter breaks.

The two teams each exceeded their entire first-half output in the third quarter alone. The Spartans opened the frame on an 8-2 run and led by as many as 10, but UFV’s Victoria Jacobse knocked down a triple to beat the buzzer and draw her team back to within 49-45 heading to the fourth.

The Cascades hung tough throughout the fourth, only to falter in the last three minutes.

Fifth-year point guard Sara Simovic paced the Cascades with 17 points to go with seven rebounds and five steals. Fellow senior Shayna Litman chipped in with 14 points, and Taylor Claggett contributed six points and eight boards.

Tessa Ratzlaff notched a double-double with the Spartans (16 points, 11 boards), Sarah Buckingham scored 15, and Kayla Gordon had 13 points and nine rebounds.

“This is a (TWU) team that likes to play with a lot of pace, and they rebound the ball hard,” Tuchscherer said. “They have some really tough match-ups, and I thought for the most part, we adapted to that pace of play and dictated it a bit. You can’t really ask for much more than that.”

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