Huskies keep dreams of 2nd U Sports championship alive, advance to face Brock in finals
Megan Ahlstrom leads Saskatchewan past Laval with 16 points, 5 rebounds
The University of Saskatchewan Huskies kept their dream of a second national championship alive Saturday with a win over the Laval Rouge et Or at the U Sports women's basketball championship in Ottawa.
The No. 1 Huskies bested the No. 4 Rouge et Or 76-54. They will face the Brock University Badgers who defeated the University of Prince Edward Island Panthers, 69-55 in the first semifinal of the day.
This is the Huskies 12th trip to the nationals in the last 13 years but they have only brought home the Bronze Baby trophy once before, in 2016. Brock is appearing in the tournament for the first time since 1993, and has never won the title.
The Huskies ended the first quarter up by eight but were slow out of the mark in the second, failing to score a single basket for more than three minutes. Then the team came alive, scoring 17 in under four minutes, to send them to the locker room up by 18 at the half.
The Rouge et Or kept coming at them, outscoring the Huskies by a basket in the third, before the Huskies drove home the win in the final quarter.
Saskatchewan was led by fifth year guard Megan Ahlstrom with 16 points and five rebounds. Ahlstrom was named player of the game.
Brock tops UPEI
Brock University ended the golden dreams of the University of Prince Edward Island in the first semifinal at the U Sports women's basketball championship on Saturday.
The No. 2 Badgers from St. Catharines, Ont., took down the No. 6 Panthers 69 to 55 and will move on to the championship game Sunday.
"I never really believed or dreamed of this moment," Badgers guard Melissa Tatti said.
The energetic match up was extremely close through three quarters, but the Badgers began to pull away early in the fourth as the Panthers struggled to score.
"I think the turning point was we finally got four under control," Brock head coach Mike Rao said, referring to Panthers guard Jenna Mae Ellsworth. "Once we contained her and had a little help our defensive effort made our offence look a little better."
Ellsworth, a second year player from Charlottetown, was named national player of the year Wednesday, and also earned her team's player of the game honours Saturday. But most of her 19 points came in the first quarter, as the Badgers defence managed to hold her to just seven points in the second and third and to nothing at all in the fourth.
A tearful Ellsworth was trying to shake off the loss and look ahead to Sunday's bronze medal match-up.
"We've worked just as hard as any other team this whole year," she said. "It's our first time in this big stage and we proved that we're able to compete at this level."
Badger player of the game Samantha Keltos scored 23 points with 17 rebounds to lead her team, helped by fifth-year point guard Tatti who scored 13 points with five rebounds.
Rao credited the hard work of both Tatti and Keltos, the latter of whom only joined the team this year after spending two years competing in the NCAA. Rao said he got a call from Keltos last season asking if he could consider letting her join the team and he says it was an easy decision to say yes.
Neither team has ever won a national title in women's basketball.
Brock earned its spot in the championship by winning the Ontario conference title for the first time in 27 years, while P.E.I. made it to the final 8 after winning the Atlantic conference title for the first time in 22 years.
The Badgers will play the winner of the second semifinal between the No. 1 Saskatchewan Huskies and No. 4 Laval Rouge et Or, who are both looking for a win after multiple appearances in the Final 8 in recent years. Laval has never won, while Saskatchewan won it's first and only title in 2016.