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This article was published 2/8/2017 (865 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
In the tale of two halves, Team Manitoba’s story went from feel-good yarn to a gut-wrenching horror at the Duckworth Centre on Wednesday night.
And the dream of a shot at a Canada Games gold medal was torn away in the process.
Looking poised and powerful, particularly on defence, through 20 minutes, the host female basketball squad couldn’t muster the same high-octane performance in the second half and was completely dominated by Ontario as the eastern rivals posted an 84-59 semi-final victory at the University of Winnipeg gymnasium.
Ontario moves on to the gold-medal game Friday at 5 p.m. against Quebec, while Manitoba plays Alberta for the bronze at noon. Both games are slated for the Duckworth.
"It’s pretty disappointing. If we’d won we’d be making history," said Niyah Becker, a 6-2 16-year-old from Winnipeg who fuelled the offensive machine in three previous contests but was held to just seven points by Ontario.
"But we’re still going to play hard for the bronze. We still have something to prove.
"We just didn’t play our best today, but we’ll be back to play for third place. We want it.
"We haven’t played our best basketball yet, so it’ll be our best. We’ve played really good games, but maybe not for a full 40 (minutes)."
Autumn Agar scored the game’s first bucket about 90 seconds in and Manitoba didn’t trail until the four-minute mark of the second quarter when Ontario finally grabbed a 22-21 lead. Ontario beefed up its lead, but Agar, Anna Kernaghan and Vanessa Lee launched three-straight long-range missiles for threes to tie it 30-30.
Manitoba led 34-33 at the halftime break.
Ontario returned to the court with a vengeance, outscoring the locals 25-10, sparked by an 11-point run, early in the third quarter and 25-15 in the fourth.
"Defensively we saw something we don’t usually see from Ontario. And they were hot on the shots, making their three-point shots. But we played great defence and couldn’t have done any more, I don’t think," said Agar, who poured in 13 points and wrestled away 13 rebounds.
"We just have to completely let go of this game.
"We played well. There’s nothing to be ashamed of, and look forward to our third-place game and know we can win."
Keishana Washington put in a stellar effort for Ontario, leading all shooters with 21 points, including a hat-trick of three-pointers.
Claire Signatovich made her presence felt beneath the rim, pulling down offensive and defensive rebounds and spinning to make a couple of key buckets for Team Toba. She finished with a team-leading 16.
Manitoba coach Alyssa Grant said the resolve was there but the execution was lacking.
"This is not our best game. We made some critical mistakes on defence from the perimeter. We weren’t effective in our press, which has been our bread and butter all year," Grant said.
"We knew they hurt us inside the last time we played them, so we forced them outside to beat us from the three-point line and, unfortunately, they got hot and we didn’t."
Manitoba suffered its only previous loss of the Games to the same squad — a 70-60 setback in the opener last Saturday.
Grant said a much-needed day off should give her team a chance to ease the sting, although she expects they’ll still be harbouring some anger coming in against Alberta.
"We have a day off so it will be a nice mental break, a chance for them to reflect and recharge.
"After tonight, they should be pumped and ready to compete. We wanted a gold medal. Now that we can’t get that, we have to fight our butts off for the bronze," she said. "It’s important that we feel angry and we allow ourselves to take that and use it, but that we come back focused and prepared for our next game.
Quebec defeated Alberta 83-51 in the other female semifinal Wednesday.
Meanwhile, the Manitoba male squad knocked off Saskatchewan 91-85 in a consolation game Wednesday afternoon and makes its Games swansong today against Nova Scotia at 5:15 p.m.
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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).