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Kaplan turns tables on megaphone man

Wesmen guard ignores frenetic Bison fans in Winnipeg win

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Yael KAPLAN beat the odds and the guy with the megaphone on Thursday night at the University of Manitoba Investors Group Athletic Centre.

Kaplan, the Winnipeg Wesmen's second-year guard, faced some frenetic fans but calmly put up a double-double with 17 points and 11 rebounds to lead the Wesmen women to a 56-42 hoops victory over the Manitoba Bisons.

The game was part of the basketball portion of the annual Duckworth Challenge, a competition between the Manitoba and Winnipeg universities' men's and women's basketball and volleyball teams that counts in the standings.

In the men's game which followed, there were four technical fouls handed out as the Bisons beat the Wesmen 99-80. Players of the game were Brayden Duff of Winnipeg (11 rebounds) and Kurtis Sansregret of Manitoba (21 points).

Kaplan, a rare recruit out of the small AAA school Grey Academy, said she relished the jeers. It was Spirit Cup night and a couple of hundred U of M resident students -- including one guy with a megaphone -- targeted Kaplan in the second half.

"I totally feed off of that, all the time," said Kaplan, who went 6-for-7 at the free-throw line. When she missed one late in the game and the cheers filled the air, she sank the next one and cheered in the direction of the megaphone man.

"It's always fun with the rivalry so you just have to compete your hardest. Especially when the crowd is calling you out, yelling your name, cheering when you miss, that's when you have to prove a point," Kaplan said, laughing. "That's when you have to cheer back at them. When we make that shot, I always look into the crowd and cheer right back at them."

In the fourth quarter after she hit a jump shot to put her team up 50-37, she held up her hands and shouted 'yeah, Wesmen' in the direction of megaphone man.

Both Winnipeg and Manitoba teams are young this year, which was reflected in the high number of turnovers and low shooting percentages for both.

The Wesmen have three fifth-year players in guards Mackenzie Prasek, Amy Ogidan and Heather Hildebrandt.

"This was a great win for us because as a young team, I want them to feel tradition and this (Duckworth) Challenge is a big part of that," said Wesmen head coach Tanya McKay, whose team's player-of-the-game was Prasek with eight points.

"Me having played five years (at U of W) and coaching for 16 years, it's important to me that they bleed Wesmen red."

Bisons head coach Pam Danis saw her team led by the only fifth-year player dressed for the Bisons, Mubo Ilelaboye (nine points).

"We've had some moments where it looks like we're just getting over the hump and we just can't sustain those, but that just comes with experience and confidence," said Danis, whose team's player of the game was Maria Pawlyshyn, who had eight points.

The volleyball portion of the Duckworth Challenge will be held on Feb. 1 at the U of W Duckworth Centre.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 2, 2011 C4

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