Dan Kinvig, UFV Athletics
ABBOTSFORD, B.C. – With their season on the line, Kayli Sartori and her University of the Fraser Valley women's basketball teammates mustered a gritty effort, defeating the Calgary Dinos 61-59 on Saturday evening in Game 2 of their Canada West first-round playoff series.
Playing at UFV's Envision Athletic Centre, Sartori racked up a game-high 23 points, highlighted by a tough driving layup plus the foul with just under a minute left in regulation to expand a slender one-point advantage to four and allow the Cascades to extend the best-of-three set.
Game 3 goes Sunday at 5 p.m. at the Envision Athletic Centre.
The Dinos had posted a decisive 67-48 victory in Friday's opener, but the Cascades turned in a tougher team-wide performance to even things up. Taylor Claggett was at her rugged best, scoring 11 points and grabbing nine rebounds, and Sara Simovic and Shayna Litman added seven points apiece.
Erin McIntosh (21 points) and Michal Assaf (20 points) did the bulk of the scoring for the Dinos, while Brianna Ghali – a thorn in the Cascades' side on Friday with 20 points and 16 boards – was limited to five points.
"I thought our approach was a lot better today," Cascades head coach Al Tuchscherer said afterward. "We were ready to compete – we weren't afraid to get in the dirty areas and battle for some loose balls and some rebounds. We did lose the rebounding battle (49-31), but I thought our hustle overcame a lot of that."
While the Dinos fared well on the boards, the Cascades took the turnover battle, giving the ball away just 10 times compared to Calgary's 18.
The hosts were locked in defensively from the opening tip, building a 15-4 lead at the end of the first quarter. The Dinos mananged an 8-0 run early in the second, but the Cascades regained control and led 30-22 at halftime.
UFV expanded the advantage to 18 points (43-25) on Litman's layup midway through the third quarter, but Assaf scored eight straight points as part of a 10-0 Dinos response, and the visitors were back to within 47-43 at the end of the third.
Calgary leveled the score on two occasions in the last five minutes of regulation, but Litman knocked down clutch shots on back-to-back possessions and Sartori followed with a pair of driving layups (and an and-one free throw) to give the Cascades some breathing room.
Simovic went 3-for-4 from the foul line in the dying seconds before Assaf hit a buzzer-beating three to provide the final margin.
Tuchscherer was pleased with how his veterans – Sartori, Litman, Simovic and Syd Williams – responded after Friday's struggles.
"We challenged them last night that they needed to be better and they needed to lead us, and tonight they did," he said. "They were very good tonight in all aspects of the game."
Sartori said that Game 3's outcome will hinge on which team wants it more.
"It's not about what got you here, it's about who wants it more, who's hungrier," she said. "We just have to come in focused and be prepared to take hits, finish, get on the ground, get some skinned-up knees and bruises, and be really eager to fight for it and make it count."