Paul Cartledge, Golden Bears and Pandas Athletics
EDMONTON – With a big third quarter to make the difference, the University of Alberta Pandas take an 81-72 victory over the University of Manitoba Bisons in a single elimination play-in game to advance to the quarter-final round, Saturday night at Saville Community Sports Centre.
Regular season scoring leader Emma Kary netted a game-high 26 points, 11 in the third quarter alone, while team rebound leader Elle Hendershot earned another double-double on the season, recording 16 points and 13 boards. Guards Megan Tywoniuk (third-year) and Lauren Earl (second-year) both cracked the double-digit barrier with 10 points apiece.
Third-year guard Nicole Konieczny, who had the second-highest single-game point total in Canada West earlier in the year with 41, put up 24 points in the loss to go with seven rebounds. Team leading scorer Taylor Randall added 14 points while third-year forward Emma Thompson notched 13 points and nine rebounds.
After Randall opened the scoring with a layup, the Pandas replied with a 15-2 run, Hendershot putting in three straight buckets for the home team and a commanding lead in the game, but the Bisons found life with a 9-0 run late in the opening frame to pull within four to start the second quarter.
Manitoba used their momentum to get close to doubling their shooting percentage from the first quarter while the Pandas, stellar at 73% in the first 10 minutes, fell just below 50%. With an 8-3 run midway through the frame, however, Alberta managed to extend their lead to as high as eight, draining a couple of treys moments later to keep the momentum on the home side, eventually leading to a 38-33 lead at halftime.
As the lowest-scoring team to make the post-season, the Pandas needed someone to step up on offence and Kary did just that with six points early as Alberta doubled up 10-5 on the Bisons in the first half of the quarter.
The Calgary native didn't stop there, earning 11 points in the frame while the rest of her team combined for 18 while outrebounding Manitoba 13-7. The Pandas also went a perfect 8-for-8 from the charity stripe and entered the final frame with a commanding 20-point lead.
Alberta kept their foot on the gas to open the fourth, pushing the lead to 24 points, but out of desperation, the Bisons rediscovered their scoring, a late 11-0 cutting the lead to as little as nine with 90 seconds left in the game, but the Panda defence kept the visitors to the outside and prevented easy shooting lanes before controlling the ball in the final half-minute to close out the game.
The Pandas now move on to a best-of-three quarter-final round, hosted by the Trinity Western Spartans next weekend in Langley, B.C.