Lancers steamroll Spartans

Dakota dominates on way to championship final; will face Garden City for title


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The Dakota Lancers loved winning the provincial AAAA varsity girls basketball championship so much last season they’ve decided to do it all again in 2023.

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The Dakota Lancers loved winning the provincial AAAA varsity girls basketball championship so much last season they’ve decided to do it all again in 2023.

And there may not be much anyone can do to stop them.

The No. 1-ranked defending champs got 20 points and 19 rebounds from Grade 11 forward Izzi Fust and 21 points and seven rebounds from guard Darya Rom on their way to an 89-44 triumph over the fifth-seeded Sisler Spartans in provincial semifinal action at Investors Group Athletic Centre Friday night.

Dakota has not lost to a Manitoba opponent this season. The Lancers are now 22-2 in 2022-23 after going 22-0 en route to the title last spring.

“I didn’t think we were the greatest in the half court today,” said Lancers head coach Eric Sung. “Obviously, our transitions have always been really good. Defensively we were fine. In the half-court (offence) we just didn’t have our best chemistry, I guess you would say, but when we did execute, we were fine.”

Kyu Fust, a Grade 12 forward, added 19 points and six rebounds for the winners.

The Fust sisters, who were ranked Nos. 1 and 2 in the Free Press’ varsity girls top 10 coaches’ poll earlier this week, were their usual dominant selves but the Lancers are far from a two-woman team.

Hope Laroque had 12 points for the winners while Abby Sweeny chipped in with 10 points, four rebounds and five steals.

“We definitely went in with a game plan but I don’t know how well we followed it,” said Izzi Fust, who also had four blocked shots. “I think we followed it fairly well in the first half. In the second half, we kind of started to get excited.”

The Lancers also got three points from guard Taylor Schepp, who was playing her first varsity game after scoring a career-high 54 points in the Dakota junior varsity squad’s 74-64 win over the Maples Marauders in Tuesday’s AAAA final. Schepp was named tournament MVP.

Dakota took a 21-9 lead after the first quarter with the Spartans staying close enough thanks to a pair of threes by star guard Alyssa Doneza.

But Sisler’s offence cooled off considerably after that.

Dakota was up 47-19 at halftime and 67-30 at the third-quarter break.

“They’re a big team and that’s hard and that takes a really big effort,” said Sisler head coach Michael Tan of the Lancers. “And when you have a juggernaut like that, you’ve got to come in playing extremely perfect. So we really focused on ourselves and tried to do what we had to do to get there and the fact that we got here was in itself a huge accomplishment.”

The Lancers and Garden City Gophers will meet in Monday’s varsity girls provincial final at IGAC. Tip-off is 6 p.m.

The No. 3 Gophers advanced to the championship game with an 88-61 triumph over the No. 2 Vincent Massey Trojans in Friday’s late semifinal

“I’m excited for the energy it’s going to bring,” said Dakota’s Sweeny prior to the Massey-Garden City semifinal. “I think both teams are very strong so I think whichever team we play, they’ll give us a challenge.”

Forward Amira Lawrence had 21 points to lead the Gophers, who got 20 more from guard Halley Cruz.

Garden City, playing in the program’s second final four, improved to 19-1 on the season. The team’s only defeat was a 14-point loss to Dakota in the final of the St. Vital Invitational.

“We started off slow but then we kind of settled in and we started playing our game,” said Garden City head coach Roberto Campanella Jr., whose team led 41-33 at halftime. “I’m thankful and grateful to get there for sure.

“I mean, it’s our first time for a provincial final but I like our odds. Dakota is a great team, great coach. Obviously, they’re a lot bigger and athletic than us, but if we can play like we did tonight I think we can keep it close. And then I mean, it’s just one game.”

Forward Paige Schatkowsky was a force for the Trojans, pouring in a team-high 18 points.

Meanwhile, the top-ranked Sturgeon Heights Huskies face the No. 2 St. Paul’s Crusaders in Monday’s varsity boys final. Game time at IGAC is 8 p.m.

Mike Sawatzky

Mike Sawatzky

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

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