Daniel Herrick, University of Saskatchewan (With files from Cougar Athletics)
SASKATOON – For the second straight year, the University of Saskatchewan Huskies were crowned Canada West champions on their home court.
Saskatchewan defeated the University of Regina Cougars 64-53 Saturday night on Ron and Jane Graham Court at the PAC to earn their fifth ever conference title in a rematch of the 2016 championship game.
Sabine Dukate was a force playing in her second Canada West final. The second-year Huskie guard scored a game-high 25 points and played all forty minutes for the second straight game. Dukate was 5-for-12 from three point range. First-year Summer Masikewich added another 14 points and eight rebounds, while fellow first-year Libby Epoch dished out seven assists.
"I can't believe the growth of all of the individual players this season," said head coach Lisa Thomaidis. "The rookies transformed into veterans in the course of six months and the veterans have all taken on new roles and I am just so proud of their tremendous growth and maturity. To repeat as champions is unfathomable."
Kyanna Giles led the Cougars with 14 points in the loss while also grabbing another eight boards. Sara Hubenig added another 11 points and seven rebounds for Regina.
The first quarter was marred by a dearth of offence, as Saskatchewan led 11-8 after the opening 10 minutes. The pace picked up considerably in the second quarter, starting with a 12-2 run by the Cougars that started with a three by Hubenig and finished with a triple from well beyond the arc by Britton Belyk. That put the Cougars up 20-16 midway through the period, but Saskatchewan finished the second on a 13-4 run as the Huskies took a 29-24 advantage into the halftime break. Dukate scored a total of six points in consecutive possessions for Saskatchewan during that run, hitting a triple and then hitting three free throws the next time down the floor.
Saskatchewan took over in the third quarter, as the Huskies went on a 14-2 run over the final seven and a half minutes of the period to go up 45-32 heading into the fourth. Regina showed some life in the fourth quarter after employing an effective press that forced a pair of turnovers and helped the Cougars go on an 8-0 run to get to within six. The U of R went on another 8-2 run late in the game to again get to within six, but could draw no closer and the Huskies iced the game with several late free throws.
"Second half we knuckled down on the defensive end and made it tough," added Thomaidis. "I think we got some confidence from our great defence."
Both teams had similar numbers, with Saskatchewan shooting 30% from the field compared to Regina's 27%. The Huskies had a 41-32 rebounding advantage, but turned the ball over 18 times compared to just 12 for the Cougars. The biggest difference was at the free throw line, where Saskatchewan was 25-for-33 as a team and the U of R was 14-for-19.
Seeding and quarterfinal matchups for next weekend's U SPORTS tournament will be announced on Sunday.