Wolves Females earn reputation as legitimate contenders at provincials
Herald-Tribune sports editor
Their season is over, but the Wolves served notice to the teams in the south: Grande Prairie Regional College is not to be taken lightly.
"We did Grande Prairie proud," said Wolves women's basketball coach Kim Gravengard of her team's performance in their playoff series loss to the Mount Royal Cougars. "Even their coach said, 'I only thought there were four legitimate contenders in Alberta. After seeing you guys play, there's definitely five.'"
The Wolves gave the nationally-ranked (No. 4) Cougars all they could handle in the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference best-of-three provincial quarter-final series, winning the first game 81-75 before dropping the next two, 59-48 and 65-60.
"It was frustrating, but I couldn't have asked for any more from my players," said Gravengard. "They didn't hold back in any way, shape or form.
"They played their heart and soul out and you know what? We came up a little bit short, but we were the only team to take a series to the (deciding game)."
Gravengard credited Mount Royal's ability to adapt to Grande Prairie's style of play. Whereas the Wolves were allowed to set the tone in Thursday's opener, the Cougars slowed the pace down for the next two games, bringing their superior strength to the forefront.
"In the first game, we really pushed hard to do the fast break and they (Cougars) are not a team that likes to run," she said. "Friday was a much more physical game. Defence was a lot tighter and they shortened the game out to the half-court.
"We like to run and when you shorten that game, playing against the big six-five girls and the six-twos, it's a little more physical and you have to be able to make the critical shots.
"They upped their defence and it was harder for us to execute."
Saturday's deciding game was there for the taking. The Wolves led for the majority of the contest, but in the end, the experience of the Cougars shone through.
"There were maybe two minutes left and it was still a one-point game," said Gravengard. "Then time started running out and by the 54-second mark we had to start fouling. Even then, the game was well within our reach. We just couldn't make the crucial shots when we needed them."
That said, there was no blame to be laid for the effort put forth by the Wolves. The girls played hard to the final buzzer and in the end, staying within two scoring plays of upsetting one of the top teams in the country.
"I'm proud of my girls," said Gravengard. "They played very well. They're what basketball is all about. Wins are always great, but it's good to know that you did the best you could and they played their very best."