Braden Konschuh, Regina Sports Information
VICTORIA, B.C. – The University of Regina's women's basketball team overcame a horrid start to secure a wild 79-76 win over Saskatchewan on Saturday night in the fifth-place game at the U SPORTS Championship.
Saskatchewan scored the first 15 points of the game and at one point led 23-3 in the first quarter, but the Cougars came all the way back and took the lead for good with a four-point possession including a critical Avery Pearce three-pointer from the right corner with just over a minute to go.
Sabine Dukate got the Huskies to within one with a three of her own, but that was as close as they'd get. Christina McCusker hit two key free throws with 12 seconds left on the clock, and a last-second shot by Dukate fell short to secure the win for Regina.
"I was less than impressed with our effort in the first quarter – and I made my displeasure known – and then we decided to play the last three quarters like we've played most of the year and gave ourselves a chance at the end," Cougars head coach Dave Taylor said. "I'm thrilled for Katie Polischuk to end her career the way she did."
Playing in the final game of her U SPORTS career, Polischuk earned Player of the Game honours after recording 21 points, seven rebounds, and four assists. Eight of those points came in a two-minute span in the fourth quarter, including three-pointers on back-to-back possessions.
Christina McCusker and Sara Hubenig both added 10 points, while Pearce finished with eight points and Kyanna Giles had eight points and a game-high 10 rebounds to help the Cougars to a 51-40 advantage on the glass. Angela Bongomin was also strong off the bench for the U of R, going 3-for-5 from the field and finishing with seven points, three rebounds, and three blocks.
Megan Lindquist and Dukate led Saskatchewan with 18 points and 17 points, respectively.
Saskatchewan could simply do no wrong to start out the game. Dukate hit a three on the Huskies' opening possession and Saskatchewan added triples by Megan Ahlstrom and Lindquist soon after. The Huskies added another bucket inside to go up 11-0, and after a turnover by the Cougars on the ensuing possession Taylor had seen enough and brought in a full line change off the bench. That changed little, as Saskatchewan scored 12 of the next 15 points – with the only Regina points coming off a Britton Belyk triple – to take a 23-3 lead, the largest of the game for the Huskies.
But Regina allowed only three points in the final three and a half minutes of the first, helping set the tone for what was to come. The Cougars trailed 26-10 after one, and went on their first real run of the contest with nine straight points – including five from Polischuk – to bring the lead back down to single digits early in the second. They went on another big run later in the quarter, scoring 12 straight points including triples by Hubenig, Polischuk, and Pearce to get back to within two points at 35-33. Saskatchewan went into halftime up 38-33.
The Cougars continued their strong play in the third, scoring the first five points of the quarter to tie the game for the first time since the opening tip. Regina finally broke through to take its first lead of the contest late in the third quarter after a three-point play by Bongomin, though the teams traded leads three more times in the period before Saskatchewan took a 54-53 lead into the fourth.
The Huskies actually led for much of the fourth quarter before Giles hit a pair of free throws with just over a minute and a half remaining to pull even at 73-73. Giles went to the line again the next possession and hit her first before missing the second, but the Cougars grabbed the offensive rebound which led to Pearce's second triple of the game and a four-point lead for the Cougars. Dukate's three on the next possession brought Saskatchewan to within 77-76, but those would be the Huskies' last points of the game as the Cougars held on for the win.
NOTES: Pearce was nothing short of deadly for the Cougars in the postseason, hitting 10 of her 16 attempts from three (63%) in the team's seven playoff games ... the Cougars finish the season with a 34-5 overall record.