Wesmen win without superstar
Thunder past Herd while injured Giles watches from bench
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Kyanna Giles isn’t superhuman on the basketball court. It just looks like that sometimes.
On Saturday, the University of Winnipeg’s star guard played a role she appears to be completely unaccustomed to — as a spectator.
Instead of leading the Wesmen on the court, Giles did her best to spark her teammates from the bench but the grim reality of her situation was plain 24 hours after she dropped to the floor in overtime, writhing in pain with an injured right knee, during Winnipeg’s 85-74 triumph over the Manitoba Bisons.
In Saturday’s series finale, the Wesmen thumped the Manitoba Bisons 65-56 in Canada West Universities Athletic Association women’s game at the Duckworth Centre with Giles, a leading contender for U Sports national player of the year honours, watching from the sidelines with her right leg wrapped in a brace.
In men’s action, Manitoba beat Winnipeg 71-61 to earn a split in a combative, emotion-drenched weekend series.
Giles, Canada West’s leading scorer, could be the key to a return to the national championship tournament where Winnipeg earned a silver medal in 2022.
“We have to go with the approach and the mindset of that she could be out,” said veteran Wesmen guard Raizel Guinto. “So if we continue to play the way we did today, I think we have a really good shot, regardless of whether she is or isn’t playing. We know that she’s going be there for us and support us 100 per cent from the bench. I heard her the whole time (tonight).”
The eighth-ranked Wesmen are uncertain about what the future holds for their star, who politely declined comment.
“We don’t know anything definitive,” said Winnipeg head coach Alyssa Cox. “She was in to see the doctor (Saturday) and we’re hoping to know more in the next day or two. But she’s in good spirits and she was there on the bench today to support her teammates and that’s all we can ask right now.”
If the game signalled a premature conclusion to the Giles era at the U of W, the current team remains in good hands.
The guard tandem of fifth-year veterans Guinto and Robyn Boulanger was a steady presence Saturday night.
Boulanger supplied eight points and six rebounds while Guinto added six points (despite an off 3-for-10 shooting night), seven asissts and five rebounds.
“With or without Kyanna, I always feel like I have a responsibility to kind of keep the team at ease,” said Guinto. “Being a point guard, your natural tendency to kind of run in and get everybody where they’re supposed to go and all that stuff. I wouldn’t say that the responsibility would have increased but it’s just more apparent.”
Fifth-year forward Julia Schatkowsky piled up 11 rebounds and a career-high 30 points for the Wesmen, who improved to 14-4. Teammate Tamiya Ness chipped in with 11 points.
The weekend sweep added to extended Winnipeg’s winning streak over Manitoba to 32 consecutive conference and non-conference games. The Manitoba women, who fell to 4-14 in conference play, last beat Winnipeg on Feb. 13, 2014.
Point guard Lauren Bartlett had 10 points and six assists for the Bisons, who battled mightily to knock off their cross-town rivals.
“They’re definitely a different team (without Giles) but honestly, they played they played pretty well today,” said Bartlett. “Yesterday they didn’t shoot the ball too well and tonight I feel like they got a lot of inside points on us … Hopefully she’s back for the playoffs.”
Bisons 71 Wesmen 61
Fans got more than their money’s worth with this weekend series.
The teams played fast and ferociously, whetting the appetite for a potential Canada West playoff meeting in the conference final or semifinals later this month.
“We definitely just played more as a team and we just played harder, we just competed,” said Bisons forward Simon Hildebrandt, who had a team-high 23 points. “I know in the second quarter, every single one of our baskets was made off an assist.”
Manitoba, ranked fifth in the country, improved to 16-2 while No. 10 Winnipeg fell to 14-4.
Manitoba led 39-28 and trailed briefly in the fourth quarter before putting the game away. Mason Kraus had 15 points, six rebounds and four steals for the winners. Wyatt Tait added 12 points.
“I thought the rhythm of the game was in the favor of Manitoba,” said Wesmen head coach Mike Raimbault. “They were more physical and they got to a lot of loose balls. They made the majority of the 50-50 plays and we had some foul trouble and they took advantage of their physicality.”
Mikhail Mikhailov had 15 points and 13 rebounds for Winnipeg while teammate Emmanuel Thomas added 14 points.
Mike has been working on the Free Press sports desk since 2003.