Written by Tony Clarke
It may have been a close game early, but it wasn’t long before the top-ranked team in the country demonstrated why they hold that title.
After a two-week break, the Lethbridge College Kodiaks women’s basketball team showed a bit of rust in the opening quarter of their Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference quarter-final playoff match-up with the Grande Prairie Regional College Wolves Friday at the Val Matteotti Gymnasium.
But like good teams often do, the Kodiaks found their groove at the offensive end of the floor and won Game 1 of the best-of-three series 85-66.
“I thought we were pretty good,” said head coach brad Karren. “We were a little shaky, we had a bit of nerves from not playing the past few weeks, so it makes a difference when you are rusty.”
Despite playing an average first quarter, Karren was pleased with his players ability to step up their game when they needed to, especially South Division regular season scoring champ, guard Kayla Lambert, who had the hot shooting hand in the second quarter.
Lambert finished the opening half with 24 points and scored 32 in the game, even though Karren rested her, and other starters, in the final quarter.
“In the second half of the season we asked Kayla to bring her scoring down a little bit and try making more assists. But it’s the playoffs now and when she is open, she shoots and we want her to start scoring. When she wants to, she can put the ball in the hoop and it showed tonight.”
The play of Kodiak centre Anne Mercer was also stellar.
Mercer was a force in the rebounding department, both on offence and defence, hauling down 11. She scored 18 points, mostly from put-backs and outside jump shots. And to top it off, Mercer collected a handful of steals and assists.
“Anne does everything. She gives us rebounding, she had a double-double tonight . . . and we go the way she goes. I don’t think we could win without her.”
Grande Prairie came out of the gate playing aggressive basketball Friday, which prevented the Kodiaks from dictating the pace of the game early, something Karren said earlier this week he felt his team needed to do in order to win.
With the score tied at 24-24 with eight minutes left in the second quarter, Lambert went on a scoring spree, which seemed to ignite the entire team, as the Kodiaks headed into the half with a 49-32 lead.
The home team would stretch the lead to 30 points heading into the final quarter. In the final 10 minutes, Karren rested his starters and gave his bench some valuable playing time.
Grande Prairie cut into the lead, but not nearly enough as the Kodiaks grabbed the lead in the series. They will look to close things out tonight in Game 2 at the Val matteotti Gymnasium, starting at 7 p.m.
“We had a slow start but we had to stay focus. It’s what we worked on in practice and we were able to stay together,” said Lambert, who said she was happy to find her scoring touch in the second quarter.
“I guess I needed to just step up, like the other girls, and we all did.”
Despite losing the game by 19 points, Wolves head coach Kim Gravengard was pleased with her team’s effort against the Canadian Colleges Athletic Association No. 1-ranked team.
“It’s tough playing any team in this conference, it’s what makes Alberta a great place to play in,” said Gravengard.
“There’s a reason they are number-one. They are a disciplined team, they’re well-coached, they execute plays well and tonight we struggled to shoot the ball. It was tough to keep the game within range.