Wolves Send Trojans Packing With 2-0 Quarter-Final Sweep To Advance To Semifinals
By JEFF KORENKO
All season long, GPRC Wolves women's basketball coach Mark Catling has impressed upon his team that the ability to bear down at the foul line would inevitably decide the outcome of an important game.
That kind of game came Friday night. Proving they had heeded their coach's warnings, the Wolves are now headed to the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference Final Four tournament this weekend at Mount Royal College in Calgary.
Scoring 36 points from the charity stripe, the Wolves advanced through their best-of-three quarter-final series at home against the SAIT Trojans by squeaking out a 68-66 overtime win in Game 2.
And they did it, unbelievably enough, by shooting a pitiful 23.1 per cent from the floor for the game - including an absurdly low 3-for-30, or 10 per cent - in the opening half.
What made the victory possible was that GPRC dominated the Trojans under the basket in getting sent to the line 44 times and then made 82 per cent of their shots from there.
"The big thing for us was rebounding and free throws," said Catling. "We were aggressive taking the ball to the basket and we have talked about how shooting well from the free throw line would take on added significance in the playoffs. It sure did and the girls sure came through."
As they did in Game 1 Thursday night, the Wolves, who got a game-high 21 points from Jen Seemann, 12 from guard Erica Rude and another nine from wing Erin Slemp, trailed heading to the third quarter Friday.
This time the score was 31-21 in SAIT's favour.
But just as they did the night before, they recovered through the third 10-minute portion of the game, outscoring the Trojans 18-9 to trail by one at 40-39 going to the fourth.
The teams battled back and forth through the final 10 minutes and it took two made free throws by Leah MacNeil with four seconds to go to send the game into overtime.
With the Wolves playing without fouled-out starters Jaelle Duinker and Slemp, MacNeil then scored the remaining five of her seven points on the night in the extra session to push the team into a conference semifinal game Friday night.
"It was just one of those games where it went back and forth," said Catling. "We really struggled in that first half. We couldn't make anything. But, it was the same type of thing we have seen all year long. We badly outplayed them in the third quarter.
"Leah was just sensational for us down the stretch."
The Trojans, who shot just 32.1 per cent from the floor themselves, got 18 points from Talia Galbraith, 17 by Whitney Jekabson and 10 from Leanne Becking.
But they were badly outplayed under the boards, as the Wolves, led by Seemann's 14, out-rebounded them 59-39.
And while forward Laura Dunsdon was also her usual physical self in collecting 11 rebounds, the difference came in that everybody chipped in, Catling said noting that five-foot-three guard Melanie Patterson, who also had seven points, netted nine, as did backcourt mate Rude.
The Trojans also made only eight of 16 shots from the free throw line.
"Everyone hustled for the ball. The guards got involved. We just played hard despite the fact the ball wasn't falling for us," said Catling.
And because of that, the Wolves are now bound for the Final Four, where they will face the Mount Royal College Cougars in one of two semifinals to be played Friday night.
The defending-champion Cougars, who finished the regular season with a South Division-best record of 17-3, advanced by sweeping the Concordia University College Thunder this weekend.
Playing in the other semifinal Friday night will be the Grant MacEwan College Griffins, 21-3 for first in the North, and the Lethbridge Community College Kodiaks, who finished second in the South at 16-4. Grant MacEwan got past Medicine Hat in quarter-final play while the Kodiaks swept King's University College Eagles 2-0 in their series.
"It's going to be an awesome experience for the girls," said Catling, whose squad is the only one of the four not nationally ranked.
"We are in the Final Four and hopefully that will give us the recognition this team has deserved this year," said Catling.