Nicole Betker, University of Saskatchewan
SASKATOON – The University of Saskatchewan Huskies will have the chance to defend its Canada West title after defeating the Alberta Pandas 72-62 in a conference semfinal Friday night on Ron & Jane Graham Court at the PAC.
The Huskies advance to the conference championship game for the third straight year and have the chance to repeat as champions on the same floor, where they won a season ago. The Huskies will face the winner of the second semifinal between the Regina Cougars and Winnipeg Wesmen. Alberta will face the loser of that game in Saturday's bronze medal game.
In a rematch of the 2016 semifinal, the Pandas got out to a strong start quieting the hometown crowd late in the first quarter with a 16-10 lead. The Pandas took a four point lead into the second quarter and extended it to seven three minutes into the period. The Huskies kept the Pandas from stretching it too far in before halftime getting back to within three points and staying close, down 29-26 at the half.
The teams continued to battle hard on the defensive end in the third quarter. Clean looks at the basket were tough to come by, but the Huskies managed to work the score tied six minutes into the frame. With less than three minutes to go in the third Sabine Dukate's three-pointer gave Saskatchewan it's first lead since the opening minutes of the game. The Huskies would grow the lead as large as six before taking a five-point lead to the third quarter break.
In the fourth, the Huskies were eagerly looking to build on their momentum and break the game open. The Pandas hung in with solid three-point shooting early in the quarter to keep the deficit at five. Megan Ahlstrom scored six straight points for Saskatchewan with under four minutes to play that forced the trailing Pandas to begin fouling to try and extend the game.
Saskatchewan shot 44.2% in the game including 8-of-15 attempts from three. Alberta hit 41.1% of their shots.
Dukate led all scorers in the game with 25 points while playing all 40 minutes. Dukate added three steals and a pair of rebounds. Megan Ahlstrom and Summer Masikewich each hit double digits for Saskatchewan with 13 and 10 points respectively.
Maddie Rogers scored a team-high 19 points for Alberta. Rogers finished 7-of-16 from the floor while also dishing out four assists. Megan Tywoniuk added 12 points, all from three-point range, for the Pandas.
Tipoff for the Canada West Final is set for 7 p.m., following the 5 p.m. bronze medal game.