By Todd Andre
The University of Calgary women’s basketball team has clawed their way into hosting the Central division semi-final against the University of Saskatchewan Huskies on the back of their unbelievable 10-game winning streak. For the second time this season the Dinos swept the Huskies, taming the dirty dawgs 85-79 Fri., Feb. 7, and 75-69 Sat., Feb. 8.
The Huskies have to return to Saskatchewan with their tail between their legs after losing first place on the last day of the season. To make matters even worse for the Huskies, they have to return to Calgary for the division semi-final Feb. 16-18 and face a team that looks unstoppable.
“I don’t think we’re going to do anything drastically different [this weekend],” said Lindsay Maundrell, who led all Dino scorers in Saturday’s game with 21 points. “We all can play better. We know what we’re good at, and we know where our strengths are.”
It is hard to believe the Dinos can play any better than they are now. The ‘Saurs have won 12 of their last 13 games since being crushed by Saskatchewan 81-69 in their first meeting of the season, and they have yet to surrender a loss in 2007. They have come a long way from the 3-6 team that the Huskies pummeled before the Christmas break.
“That was our biggest test since December–the last time we played them,” said coach Shawnee Harle after Friday’s nail-biting victory. “I didn’t think we played very well [in the first half]. But I thought we kicked it in, and I thought Ashley [Hill] kicked it in the third [quarter].”
Friday’s game was a see-saw battle of two teams fighting to play in front of their hometown fans, and more importantly, sleep in their hometown beds. The Dinos seemed incapable of taking the lead from Saskatchewan until the third quarter, when Hill started to heat up. A halftime chat with the coach inspired the rookie to go 7-10 from the field, scoring 17 points and winning player of the game honours.
“Just before we went onto the floor Shawnee gave me a bit of a pep talk,” said Hill from the seat of her stationary bike after the game. “She told me and Coyle we had to play well to win.”
There must be magic in those words, because Coyle and Hill led all Dino scorers with 18 and 17 points respectively, and the valiant Dino defenders clamped down in the last four minutes to seize the win.
Calgary churned out a different performance Friday night, but reaped the same result: a victory and a home court date for the opening round of the playoffs against a Saskatchewan team that will be physically and emotionally drained.
“They’re going to be tired,” said Harle. “The thing I like best [about the last weekend’s games]: on Friday I thought we won with our offence, and on Saturday I thought we won with our defence. That’s a tough thing for Saskatchewan to prepare for.”
Regardless of how well the Dinos are playing right now, they still have a huge obstacle to overcome in their first round match up against the Huskies. That obstacle is the gargantuan reigning league MVP Sarah Crooks, who just surpassed Calgary’s Leighann Doan for the all-time lead in Canada West scoring by draining her 1,959th point on a free throw in Friday’s game. And if Calgary’s rebounding struggles continue this weekend, they could have their hands full trying to block key-monster Crooks once she has a juicy offensive rebound. The Dinos were out-rebounded 104-81, last weekend, with Crooks recording 48 points and 35 of those boards.
Dino forwards Whitney Haswell and Michelle Wilson are going to have to step up their game this weekend in order to stop the colossal Crooks. The Dinos are 3-0 against Saskatchewan and 14-3 overall when either of these two women leads the team in rebounds. Calgary rebounding was key in shutting down Wilson in the closing minutes of last weekend’s games, and the same will be true in the Central division semi-final.
But in the end, the Huskies are 5-5 in their last 10, while the Dinos have won 10 straight. The smart money is on the blazing red and white.
“My money is on us in two straight,” predicted Harle, humbly.