Wesmen women leave it till late
Erase double-digit deficit to conquer Bisons in OT
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For most teams, a 14-point deficit after three quarters would be a major problem to overcome.
The University of Winnipeg Wesmen women’s basketball team was in just such a predicament Friday night. To the uninitiated, they looked like a beaten bunch but in fact they were just getting comfortable.
Trailing the unranked Manitoba Bisons in a battle of haves and the have-nots in the Canada West Universities Athletic Association standings, the No. 8 Wesmen turned up the pressure and outscored their hosts 33-19 in the fourth quarter to tie the game 71-71 before taking command in overtime for an 85-74 victory at Investors Group Athletic Centre.
In men’s action, No. 10 Winnipeg got a 20-point, 15-rebound performance from Mikhail Mikhailov en route to a 89-80 victory over fifth-ranked Manitoba.
“We’d been fairly flat up to that point,” said Wesmen women’s head coach Alyssa Cox, explaining her squad’s late burst. “I give our kids a ton of credit because they really know how to turn it on when they need to. A big shift for us was our defensive pressure. We turned them over and we were able to get running, which is where we thrive. That was a big difference for us.”
Fifth-year Winnipeg guard Robyn Boulanger was a catalyst late in regulation and extra time.
Boulanger hit a three-pointer and a resulting free throw to give the visitors a 77-74 lead with 2:40 remaining in extra time. Teammate Raizel Guinto added a clutch jumper moments later to bump the lead to 79-74.
“I was pretty convinced — we’ve had a few close games,” said Boulanger of her confidence level at the third-quarter break. “I don’t know why we do this to ourselves. But you know, even talking with… other coaches — we’re a deadly fourth-quarter team.”
The Wesmen, fourth in the conference at 13-4, were dealt a potentially serious blow with 3:33 left in the five-minute overtime when star guard Kyanna Giles left the game with an apparent injury to her right knee.
Giles, a leading candidate for U Sports player of the year honours, led Winnipeg with 22 points, seven assists and six steals before being helped off the court. She has dealt with knee ailments in the past.
“Whenever a player gets injured, you do think the worst but we don’t know anything much yet, but we’ll find out more later,” said Cox. “But she’s a big part of this team, whether she’s on the court or on the bench.”
There would be no let-up after Giles’ injury.
“I don’t think it was just me,” said Boulanger, who finished with 15 points. “I think it was all of us. When we saw her go down, we always have her back. So when she goes down, we know we can perform at our best and we wanted to win the game for her.”
The result was Manitoba’s 31st consecutive loss to Winnipeg in women’s basketball.
The Bisons have not beaten Winnipeg since posting a 69-66 win on Feb. 13, 2014, a span of almost nine years that includes all conference and non-conference meetings between the teams.
Manitoba currently sits 14th in Canada West with a 4-13 record.
“I mean, it sucks,” said Manitoba guard Keziah Brothers, who led all scorers with 28 points while adding five rebounds. “There’s not much else to say about — it just sucks. The best thing is that we get another opportunity (Saturday).”
Lauren Bartlett had 17 points and six rebounds for Bisons while teammate Autumn Agar added 12 points and eight rebounds. Winnipeg’s Julia Schatkowsky had 16 points.
Winnipeg and Manitoba collide again tonight. The women’s game tips off at 5 p.m., with the men to follow at 7 o’clock. Both games will be played at the Duckworth Centre.
“We need to be tuned in,” said Brothers about Saturday’s rematch. “We need to be tuned in and lock it down to stop the momentum from changing.”
Wesmen 89 Bisons 80
Guard Alberto Gordo hit a half-court shot at the halftime buzzer to give the visitors a 50-35 lead.
Gordo had 20 points for the Wesmen, who improved to 14-3.
Manitoba, losers for only the second time in 17 regular-season games, got 18 points from Simon Hildebrandt and 19 from Elijah Lostracco.
Mike has been working on the Free Press sports desk since 2003.