An airtight defensive performance and some blue-collar work on the boards paved the way for the Alberta Pandas as they knocked off the University of the Fraser Valley Cascades 62-48 in Canada West women’s basketball quarter-final action on Thursday.
The Pandas limited the Cascades to just 27.1 per cent shooting from the field (16-for-59), and while they didn’t shoot much better themselves (31.4 per cent), they generated extra possessions by winning the rebounding battle (55-35) in decisive fashion.
With the win, Alberta advances to Friday’s semifinal to face the Calgary Dinos, who got past the UNBC Timberwolves 87-68 in Thursday’s earlier quarter-final.
The Cascades, owners of the nation’s longest active win streak (12) coming in, see their season come to an end.
“It was a really fun journey that this team took us on,” UFV head coach Al Tuchscherer said. “I’m really proud of the girls. It was a really enjoyable team to coach, and that showed, I think, with our results this year. They just loved being around each other and playing with each other.
“I think tonight, we came up against a pretty good team that was bigger than us and more physical than us, and with their experience, played a little smarter than us. We’re one of the youngest teams in the country, so for us to get this experience is invaluable. Hopefully this inspires our team to have a great off-season, and come back stronger and faster and better. I’m excited about where we’re going.”
The Pandas’ defensive chops were on display from the opening tip – they held the Cascades scoreless for nearly four minutes to start the game, with rookie forward Deanna Tuchscherer eventually breaking through with a bucket in the post.
Alberta built a 15-4 lead, but UFV responded with a 10-0 run bridging the first and second quarters, capped by back-to-back triples from Tuchscherer and Maddy Gobeil, to cut the deficit to 15-14. The Pandas, though, buckled down on defence once again, scoring the next eight points and taking a 31-18 lead into the locker room at halftime.
Throughout the second half, Alberta answered every UFV surge with one of their own. The Cascades’ last gasp came after Gobeil hit consecutive treys to trim the deficit – which had peaked at 21 points in the third quarter – back down to 12, at 50-38, with 7:30 left in regulation. Jenna Harpe helped the Pandas seal the win, though, scoring eight points down the stretch.
Harpe finished with a game-high 18 points for the Pandas, and Vanessa Wild (14) and Morgan Mudge (11) also scored in double figures.
Gobeil paced the Cascades with 16 points, Tuchscherer scored 13, and senior forward Taylor Claggett – UFV’s all-time leading scorer – posted eight points and four rebounds in what turned out to be the final game of her university career.
“Honestly it’s tough right now, but you look back, and we accomplished so much more than people thought that we would,” Claggett said. “I’m just grateful that I was able to end with such a great group of girls.”
Pandas head coach Scott Edwards noted that his team “found our groove defensively” in the second semester.
“Fraser Valley is so talented offensively, we had our hands full tonight,” he said. “But I’m so proud of our kids. I think we stepped up, for sure.”