By Mark Janzen, Trinity Western University
LANGLEY, British Columbia – The Trinity Western women's basketball team won its first playoff series in program history thanks to a 67-60 win over Brandon in a decisive Game 3 of their Canada West Play-In series Saturday night.
After dropping Game 1, the Spartans rallied to beat the Bobcats on back-to-back nights to earn an historic series win in what has already been an historic season.
Similar to Game 2, the Spartans took over in the third quarter, building a 12-point lead that, in the end, proved insurmountable. Brandon climbed back to within three points inside the final minute of the fourth quarter, but a Tessa Ratzlaff (Abbotsford, B.C.) spinning lay-up pushed TWU's lead back to five points and that all but ended the Bobcats rally.
Kayla Gordon (Prince George, B.C.) sparked the Spartans with an 11-point third quarter and finished tied with Ratzlaff with a team-high 19 points on the night. Gordon also finished with a team-leading eight rebounds. Ashleigh Barnes (Oceanside, Calif.) had a game-high five steals to go with five rebounds and six points.
"There were stretches in the game where Kayla took the team on her back and went to the things that were working and they didn't have an answer for her," said Spartans coach Cheryl Jean-Paul. "I thought Tessa battled through a tough injury and played her game. And obviously everyone else played key roles. Nat (Carkner, Port Coquitlam, B.C.) didn't score as much today, but there was a player on the floor for Brandon who could have easily scored 30 and I thought Nat did a great job of frustrating her for 40 minutes. Everyone stepped up in the area they needed to in order to get the job done."
The Spartans will now travel to play Regina in a best-of-three Canada West Quarter-Final series Feb. 23-25. All three games will start at 5 p.m. (PT).
Brandon's Amy Williams had a team-high 18 points, while Keisha Cox had 17 points and nine rebounds.
The Spartans shot 45.0 per cent from the field, while Brandon shot 37.1 per cent.
The Bobcats had 20 turnovers, which translated into 28 points for the Spartans. TWU had 16 turnovers but Brandon only had seven points off turnovers.
"It was nice to see the contributions from so many different people over the span of the three-game series," said Spartans coach Cheryl Jean-Paul. "Everyone was just ready to go when they needed to go. It speaks volumes to the culture of the team that they have created amongst themselves and how supportive they are of each other's successes. It's fun to see them achieve it together."
The Bobcats were the better side early on, opening a 9-3 lead before the home side found its form, clawing back to tie the game before taking an 18-15 lead by the end of the frame. Shooting three for six from beyond the arc, the Spartans equaled their 3-point shooting numbers from all of Game 2.
TWU went up by as many as 10 points in the second quarter, 27-17, only to have Brandon close the gap to seven just before the break. Shooting 50 per cent (8 for 16) in the quarter, compared to the Bobcats 28.6 per cent, the Spartans took a 35-28 lead into halftime. TWU had seven players with at least three points, while the Bobcats offence largely came from Cox, who had 11 first-half points.
The Spartans seized momentum in the third quarter, outscoring Brandon 20-15 to take a 55-43 lead into the final frame. Gordon had 11 points in the quarter to lead TWU, while Ratzlaff had six for a Spartans side that duplicated the 8 for 16 shooting they had in the second quarter. Williams had five points in the quarter, but Cox was held to just two points.
TWU pushed its lead to 61-47 early in the fourth quarter after a Sarah Buckingham (Surrey, B.C.) jumper, but the Bobcats responded with a 13-2 run that put the visitors within three points with 46 seconds to play. However, Ratzlaff scored the game's final four points to seal an historic win for TWU.
"I just think a win like this helps put our name out there," Jean-Paul said. "I think the alumni have come back and are so supportive and that means a lot to who we are trying to become. We want to include everyone who has been a part of this program. I'm just so encouraged by how hard our team battled and how much resilience they showed."
Game Notes: This season has been all about program firsts, as TWU posted a winning record in the regular season for the first time ever and also hosted a playoff series for the first time…Gordon finished the series averaging 15.3 points per game, while Ratzlaff averaged 15 points per game…TWU's only other playoff win in its program history was last year when the Spartans beat Victoria in Game 2 of their opening round best-of-three series…Brandon was playing in its first ever playoff series.