Written by Tony Clarke
It wasn’t the prettiest of victories, but still good enough to take the next step toward a national title.
The Canadian Colleges Athletic Association No. 1-ranked Lethbridge College Kodiaks women’s basketball team were forced to battle for every point by an aggressive Grande Prairie Regional Colleges Wolves club Saturday at the Val Matteotti Gymnasium.
But like they’ve done all year, the talented Kodiak lineup prevailed with a 76-63 Game 2 victory to sweep their Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference best-of-three quarter-final series.
The Kodiaks will now host the ACAC women’s basketball final four this Friday and Saturday. Joining the Kodiaks will be three Northern Division teams, including The Kings University College, MacEwan College and Concordia College.
Kodiak head coach Brad Karren felt his team didn’t necessarily play a step below how they usually perform, but said it was more of a case of the visitors playing tough, hard-working basketball while facing elimination.
“When you’ve got a team up against the wall like that, they will do whatever it takes to win,” said Karren. “We knew they would be physical and tough. We wanted to weather that, see how we would play, and our girls also played tough.”
The Wolves stormed out of the gate playing a physical style of pressure defence, which prevented the Kodiaks from finding any consistency at the offensive end of the floor early on. As a result, the Kodiaks held just a five-point lead after the first 10 minutes of action.
Credit the visitors for bringing their “A” game to the court with their season on the line, as they kept the game within reach for the majority of the first half and frequently forced the Kodiaks into making bad passes.
However, the solid, all-around play of centre Anne Mercer, who had 21 points and 12 rebounds, along with point guard Bonnie Smith, who scored 24 points, helped the Kodiaks take a 38-30 lead into the third quarter.
In the second half, the Kodiaks tightened up their defence and did a better job of controlling the pace, which allowed them to win the game by 13 points.
Smith, who did a good job of running the offence under constant pressure from the Wolves, said the team is happy to move on to the next playoff challenge.
“This is what we worked for all year. We’re here now and we have to prepare for what’s coming at us next weekend,” said Smith, who applauds the Wolves’ effort in the series.
“They are a really athletic team, they’re fast and we are the only team in the final four from the South Division, so it goes to show the teams in the North are strong. So we will definitely have to step it up in the final four.”
Guard Kayla Lambert scored 11 points and collected eight assists in Game 2 while teammate Nadine Adams had 10 points to go with five assists and two steals.
“We were off a bit tonight on our passes, but we did score 76 points, which is still pretty good. They are a fast team but in the second half we did a better job of being patient,” said Karren, who is also happy to be hosting the final four.
“It was goal we set for ourselves at the beginning of the season and in all reality, it’s just a stepping stone to get to the national tournament.”