Wolves Shake Halftime Deficit To Win Game 1 Over SAIT
By JEFF KORENKO
It took a little more than a half to transpire, but the beat rolled on into the playoffs for the Grande Prairie Regional College Wolves Thursday night.
Opening their Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference best-of-three quarter-final series against the SAIT Trojans, the Wolves women transformed themselves from tentative and sloppy to poised and determined to take Game 1 at the college gym.
A plethora of turnovers and missed open opportunities had the Wolves down 43-34 at the half.
However, as they had done numerous times throughout the regular season, their depth and balance eventually allowed them to turn the tide in coming away with a 79-67 win.
"We looked like a team that had never been in the playoffs before," Wolves head coach Mark Catling said, referring to the first-half performance from his team and the fact the women's program is making its first playoff appearance in four years.
"It didn't take us long to get it going, though. We weren't as sharp as we probably could have been. They came at us with a trap that we have probably seen 30 times this year that we have handled no problem and just didn't play with the same composure I would have liked.
"But, it's a series and to get the first (game) is huge."
Led by forward and captain Jen Seemann's 21 points, eight Wolves registered at least a point.
Guards Jaelle Duinker and Erica Rude dropped in 13 and 12 points, respectively, while forward Leah MacNeil contributed 11 and wing Erin Slemp finished with eight.
Seemann, despite being bothered by a nagging head cold the past couple of days, also led the game with 14 rebounds to round out a player-of-the-game effort for her side, while Slemp led Grande Prairie with eight assists.
Guard Talia Galbraith paced the Trojans, who led 28-16 after the first quarter, but just 58-57 following the third, with 21 points. Forwards Whitney Jekabson and Deanna MacRae netted 19 and 13 points, respectively.
The Trojans, who gave the Wolves fits with their two-woman trap at midcourt in the first half, shot a sparkling 54 per cent in the opening 20 minutes, mostly due to lay-in chances and open shots off the break following Wolves' miscues.
They started with a 16-6 run in the first six minutes and a long jumper for two by Galbraith in the final 10 seconds of the first had them up by 12 heading to the second.
While the Wolves struggled simply getting the ball up the floor, the Trojans continued to move it smartly into and around the offensive half-court in the second.
The Wolves shot 46 per cent in the first half and 41 per cent for the game, while the Trojans' finished at 43 per cent after managing just 30 per cent in the second half.
Beginning to dominate under the boards and playing with much more tenacity without the ball all over the floor, the Wolves chipped away in third quarter.
A run was sparked and continued by Lisa Deneault, who first hit a three for her only points of the game with four minutes to go that drew the Wolves to within eight at 52-44. She then created a turnover by deflecting a SAIT pass under her own hoop that led to a fast-break basket by Laura Dunsdon that made the score 52-50 in SAIT's favour roughly two minutes later.
"We have asked players to come in and not play a lot of minutes sometimes, but you have to contribute any way you can when you are in there," Catling said in praising Deneault.
"She struggled early, but when we needed a big shot she was in there and made one."
The Wolves led for the first time since scoring the game's first basket when MacNeil made two free throws for a 57-56 advantage with 36 seconds left in the third.
Two buckets by Seemann as the fourth quarter approached the three-minute mark put the Wolves ahead 65-61 and up for good.
The Wolves wound up out-rebounding the Trojans 41-26.
The win was the first in the postseason for the majority of the squad - only Slemp, who was part of the Concordia University College Eagles 2005 national championship team, had previously dressed for an ACAC playoff game - and a win felt pretty special, Dunsdon said.
"I think we were just a little jittery in the beginning, but we came out really hard in the second half," she said. "We just went for it and came out on fire.
"It's so huge having that first win and now we can go into the second game with that momentum."
Game 2 goes tonight at 7 p.m. Game 3, if necessary, is slated for Saturday at 1 p.m.