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This article was published 2/8/2017 (777 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
While most kids would rather dunk their homework in the trash can, the extra assignments have certainly paid off for rising Manitoba basketball stars Niyah Becker and Anna Kernaghan.
In the months leading up to the 2017 Canada Summer Games, players on the province’s female hoops squad were tasked by coach Alyssa Grant with keeping track of how many tries it took them to sink 100 free throws each week on their own time.
They say practice makes perfect, and although the duo’s accuracy at the new Canada Games Sport for Life Centre (CGSLC) wasn’t spotless Tuesday afternoon, it was mighty close.
Becker, 16, showed plenty of poise at the foul line in a nail-biter with New Brunswick, hitting seven of eight on the day — including three of four in the final minute — to lift the hosts to a 71-68 triumph in a female quarter-final match and a spot in the medal round.
'So much practice...We have to make 100 foul shots and then tell our coach how many it took us to make 100'— Team Manitoba's Niyah Becker
With just 50 seconds left in the contest, Becker went to the line and hit one of two free throws to give Team ‘Toba a 67-66 lead. Kernaghan then sunk a pair of foul shots with 22 seconds remaining to push the advantage to three.
New Brunswick’s Lucy Beaumont trimmed the lead with a nifty layup, but Becker drained two more from the line after being purposely bumped with just seven ticks left on the clock to seal it and propel the host squad into the medal round.
Manitoba faces Ontario at 8 p.m. at the Duckworth Centre tonight at the University of Winnipeg in semifinal action.
The host male squad, meanwhile, couldn’t duplicate the same kind of success late in the afternoon. Manitoba’s journey to a Games medal is over after suffering a disappointing 87-66 quarter-final defeat to Alberta at the Duckworth Centre.
Manitoba has to regroup to play a consolation game against Saskatchewan Wednesday at 12:45 p.m. at CGSLC.
Becker, 6-1, played for the Vincent Massey Trojans last season, but is transferring to Lincoln Prep (Hamilton) this fall before moving on to the University of Utah in Salt Lake City after graduation. She said confidence at the free-throw line, particularly in pressure-cooker situation, comes from successful repetition.
"So much practice. Every week, we have homework," she said. "We have to make 100 foul shots and then tell our coach how many it took us to make 100. All those weeks, going through the routine... making sure I’m calm when I’m shooting, not focusing on the negatives."
Becker got into foul trouble and was given a rest in the third quarter but returned to the court in the fourth, finishing with a team-high 19 points and eight rebounds.
"It was very stressful having four fouls and having to play safe but also giving your all," she said. "It was a great team effort. So many people stepped up when when we needed it. It was amazing."
Manitoba lost one of its leaders, point guard Lauren Bartlett early in the game when she was inadvertently poked in the eye during a battle for a loose ball.
She did not return to the game but has been cleared to play in the semifinal.
The Maritimers led 22-13 after 10 minutes, 38-36 at the half and 51-47 after three quarters, but Kernaghan said there was simply no quit on the Manitoba bench.
"They had a lot of momentum but we weren’t playing our game at the start. I think we outplayed them by the end and we worked hard as a team," said Kernaghan, who was five-for-six from the foul line and also nailed a pair of three-pointers, finishing with 15 points and four huge defensive rebounds.
Claire Signatovich was a force for the winning side, scoring 12 points and hauling down 10 rebounds. Lana Shypit replaced Bartlett and had 10 points, including a critical three-pointer to knot the game 64-64 with under three minutes left.
"(She) had a remarkable game off the bench. She came in and created a lot of chaos on the floor, which served us super well," said coach Alyssa Grant.
Shypit, 16, said she was sparked by the excitement of the moment.
"My heart was beating out of my chest. I was so surprised those shots went in, but I was just like, ‘I’m gonna take them because I know we needed them,’" she said. "We really didn’t have a lead until the end. But we wanted it so much."
email@example.com Twitter: @WFPJasonBell
Assistant sports editor
Jason Bell wanted to be a lawyer when he was a kid. The movie The Paper Chase got him hooked on the idea of law school and, possibly, falling in love with someone exactly like Lindsay Wagner (before she went all bionic).
Updated on Wednesday, August 2, 2017 at 7:56 AM CDT: Photo added.