Wolves play tough, but go 0-2 in final four play
By JEFF KORENKO
They played well enough in bits and spurts, but overall, the Grande Prairie Regional College Wolves women's hoops squad was simply overmatched at the ACAC Final Four event in Calgary this weekend.
Needing to get by the host Mount Royal College Cougars in one of two semifinal games played Friday night to get into the conference championship, the Wolves fell behind early, caught up to trail by just a single point at halftime and were defeated 74-60.
They were then soundly beaten 85-52 by the Grant MacEwan Griffins in Saturday evening's bronze-medal game.
"We expected to be in tough both days," women's coach Mark Catling said Sunday afternoon as the team made its way home from Cowtown.
"We actually played well Friday night against Mount Royal. We came out a little flat, which we knew we couldn't and then outscored them in the second quarter," he said.
"That was a real eye-opener for us, but they just went on a big run on us in the third. We played them tough. Fourteen points really doesn't tell how close that game was."
Despite finishing the regular season second in the North Division with a 17-7 record, then dispatching the SAIT Trojans in straight games at home in the best-of-three quarter-finals, the younger Wolves came out nervous Friday night against a Cougars squad that finished first in the South at 17-3 and lost just once at home.
After falling behind 24-11 after 10 minutes, the Wolves outscored the Cougars 22-10 in the second quarter to trail 34-33.
But a third quarter in which the Cougars stepped up their tenacity defensively and began making most of their shots as they out-pointed GPRC 28-10 did the Wolves in.
"They went on a tear on us. They showed why they are one of the best teams in the country. Every shot we took was contested," said Catling.
"We were a little upset we didn't play better in that third quarter. That's been one of our strongest quarters all year, but they just played with a little more passion, a little more intensity that I would have liked to have seen see from us."
The Wolves were led Friday night by 16 points from guard Jaelle Duinker, while forward Laura Dunsdon finished with 12 and wing Erin Slemp had 11.
The Cougars, who went on to lose the gold-medal game Saturday to the Lethbridge Community College Kodiaks 67-59, received 18 points apiece from Brittany Patterson and Danielle Vogt, while Paige Bowman dropped in 13.
While the Wolves out-rebounded the Cougars 41-35, they shot just 32 per cent from the field to Mount Royal's 41.5 per cent and committed 35 turnovers to the Cougars' 27.
Saturday, Grande Prairie took on a Griffins squad that had lost its semifinal game Friday night 91-71 to the Kodiaks and once again found themselves behind the eight-ball early.
The Griffins, who had five players finish the game in double digits point-wise, led 50-17 at the half by out-pointing the Wolves 24-8 in the second quarter.
Mallorie Sherman led the Griffins with 15 points, while Lindsay Cupelli threw in 13, Leanne Theuss had 12 and Jill Verhessen and Kaitlin Rempel each netted 11.
Forward Jen Seemann connected for 18 points for GPRC and Leah MacNeil was their second-highest point-producer with eight.
Duinker chipped in with six and Lisa Deneault and Cherish Esau each finished with five points apiece.
"Saturday we just got into trouble right off the bat," said Catling, who pointed out Slemp and Erica Rude committed three fouls and Duinker got nailed for a pair in the opening 3 1/2 minutes.
Grant MacEwan, which had finished the regular season as the best team in the North Division with a 21-3 record, will join Lethbridge at the Canadian Colleges Athletic Association championship, as they host the event March 15-17.
Regardless of the outcomes, the Wolves picked up oodles of valuable experience and a program that had not reached the playoffs in four years managed to make a name for itself, Catling said.
"It's been a great year and a fun road to travel down since September to now. We opened up a lot of eyes at the Final Four to just how good basketball is in Grande Prairie.
"There are a lot of positives that will lead into next season and even though we didn't win the bronze medal, the girls took a lot from the experience and I think it gives them motivation as to what we have to do to be better for next year," Catling said.