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Wesmen back in the saddle, rarin’ to go

The University of Winnipeg Wesmen took three days off to ponder their loss in the Canada West women’s basketball final.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 24/03/2022 (312 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The University of Winnipeg Wesmen took three days off to ponder their loss in the Canada West women’s basketball final.

On Wednesday, they were refreshed, returning to the practice court with an extra spring in their step because they still have so much to play for — namely the program’s first national title in 27 years.

As a Canada West finalist, Winnipeg will join the conference champion Saskatchewan Huskies at the U Sports national championship in Kingston, Ont., next week.

Saturday’s 68-59 loss to the Huskies, before a rowdy crowd of about 2,000 fans at the Physical Activity Complex in Saskatoon, was a bitter pill to swallow.

“We didn’t play our best, which is why it hurts so much,” says Kyanna Giles. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press)

“We didn’t play our best, which is why it hurts so much,” said fourth-year guard Kyanna Giles. “If we played our best, we would’ve won. But stuff doesn’t happen like that so we’ve gotta get back to the gym and work on the little things we need to work on, like shooting the ball when we’re open, protecting the ball and just getting everything back together so we can win (in Kingston).”

Fifth-year forward Faith Hezekiah vowed her team would rebound.

“It’s definitely a process,” she said. “Coming to practice today, all the energy was positive. I really appreciate my teammates for trying to make it a positive atmosphere and looking ahead, trying to set goals for each day. Looking ahead to what we need to do to perform how we need to at nationals.”

Winnipeg has gone head-to-head five times with the defending national champions, winning twice. Saskatchewan’s ability to contain Canada West player of the year Keylyn Filewich — she was held to 12 points — factored heavily in the decision.

Winnipeg led 19-8 early before the hosts stormed back.

“She’s a great player in the paint, hard to stop and they did pay a lot of attention to her and I think the combination of them making some adjustments on defence (hurt us) and I also think we got in our own way, too,” said Wesmen coach Tanya McKay. “When we get into our heads a little we’re hard on ourselves and we doubt ourselves.

Head coach Tanya McKay (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press)

“I think with the 2,000 fans screaming down their backs, there was pressure. That environment was for Saskatchewan to win and we stay with them the whole game, until the seven-minute mark of the fourth quarter and (Tea) Demong hit a three and it changed the game.”

In Saskatoon, McKay was forced to move her timeout huddles to the middle of the floor to be heard by her players. The noise factor is unlikely to play a similar role in Kingston, especially if the teams meet again.

Meanwhile, Wesmen players are focusing on one of their mantras — “We don’t do a lot. We do simple things well” — to prepare themselves for the big stage in Kingston.

“We need to all come as we are and know our roles and perform our roles — no extra things, no overthinking, no trying to do too much,” said Hezekiah. “We tried to do a little too much in the Sask game.”

“We need to all come as we are and know our roles and perform our roles– no extra things, no overthinking, no trying to do too much.” – Faith Hezekiah, fifth-year forward

To be more specific, she singled herself out for an honest critique.

“I had the ball on the baseline to inbound it after Sask had scored in the fourth quarter,” said Hezekiah. “Instead of making an easy pass to Anna (Kernaghan), I tried to make it to Kyanna over two Sask players and that was a turnover. Sask. held the ball for 45 seconds and scored a three. That’s a big mistake and it could’ve all been solved with an easy pass to Anna.”

“It’s out of our control, we can’t do anything about it,” says head coach Tanya McKay, who expects her squad to be seeded between third and sixth. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press)

Joining Winnipeg, Saskatchewan and host Queen’s Golden Gaels at the national tournament are the Acadia Axewomen, Ryerson Rams and Brock Badgers. A Quebec champ and an at large bid have yet to be named so tournament seedings and first-round match-ups are unknown.

“I think with the 2,000 fans screaming down their backs, there was pressure.” – Tanya McKay, Wesmen coach

“It’s out of our control, we can’t do anything about it,” said McKay, who expects her squad to be seeded between third and sixth. “They’re going to set the seedings as they do and the bottom line is we want to know who our first-round opponent is and that’s the focus and we don’t look past that.”

Giles’ twin Kyia plays for Ryerson and the sisters, who have been teammates throughout their careers at Sisler High School and the University of Regina before transferring two years ago, would dearly love to play each other at nationals.

Kyia’s Rams will face Brock in Saturday’s Ontario final before travelling to Kingston.

mike.sawatzky@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @sawa14

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Kyanna Gile at Wesmen basketball practice at the Duckworth Centre in Winnipeg on Wednesday, March 23, 2022. For Mike Sawatzky story. Winnipeg Free Press 2022.
Mike Sawatzky

Mike Sawatzky
Reporter

Mike has been working on the Free Press sports desk since 2003.

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