The University of Regina Cougars women’s basketball team was one game away from perfection and a Canada West title.
But on Saturday night, at the Centre for Kinesiology, Health and Sport in Regina, the UBC Thunderbirds decided to make history rather than be history. In a 78-59 thrashing, UBC ruined the Cougars’ perfect season and took home Canada West gold for the first time since 2008.
“We showed great resolve,” said UBC head coach Deb Huband. “We got pushed in the second half by Regina and were able to push back. Our defence was outstanding. We were disciplined in limiting Regina’s three-point shooting and in guarding the ball and keeping it in front of us.”
UBC started off strong with an outstanding first quarter. The Cougars were taken by surprise as the ‘Birds went 13 for 18 from the field in the early stages of the game. UBC racked up a 16-point lead in the second quarter, with second-year guard Kris Young scoring 10 points.
By the end of the second quarter, UBC had four players with double digit point totals, but Regina began to mount a comeback by going on a 14-2 run. By halftime they only trailed by four points.
The Cougars came back with a vengeance in the third quarter, tying the score early on at 44-44. Regina’s fourth-year forward, Lindsay Ledingham, put forth an impressive effort in the comeback bid, finishing the night with a game high of 17 points.
Regina’s momentum faded after Ledingham’s offensive surge, and they went five minutes without a single point, allowing UBC to take a commanding lead. Regina would only come within 7 points of tying and any final comeback hopes were dashed after a 11-1 run by UBC in the final 6 minutes of the game.
Notable performances included Young, who led UBC in scoring with 18 points, while fifth-year forward Zara Huntley chipped in 14 points.
Huband was pleased with the performances, particularly with Young. “Regina keyed on [Young] a little bit, but she stepped up,” said Huband. “Other players did too. Tori [Spangehl] was outstanding. She gave our team depth on offensive and defensively on the glass as well.”
The last time UBC faced Regina was in the opening weekend of the season. The Cougars won 77-66.
“This win is big because the team has come through adversity,” said Huband. “This team bought in and came together last spring and committed to playing for each other. It has allowed us to accomplish something we haven’t been able to do for a couple of years. I think it is special for Alex [Vieweg] and Zara [Huntley], who won in their first year and have gone through a little bit of a dry spell. They are leading by example. But we know there’s lots of basketball left.”
With the impressive victory and Canada West championship under their belts, the Thunderbirds advance to the 2012 CIS championship, which will run from March 17 to March 19 in Calgary.