It is the time of year when the snow begins to melt and signs of spring start to show. It is also the time when basketball kicks into high gear. March Madness has hit Calgary and the women's University of Calgary Dinos hosted the Final 8 tournament from March 17-19.
The first game of the Canadian Interuniversity Championship at the Jack Simpson Gym was between the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds and the McGill Martlets on Saturday. Forward Zara Huntley led the T-birds to a 65-43 victory, netting 18 points. UBC outplayed McGill despite a high number of turnovers. The second quarter-final game was between the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees and the University of Saskatchewan Huskies. Ottawa's shot percentage fluctuated, but they managed to snag a victory from Saskatchewan 73-70 in overtime. The Acadia University Axewomen, making their first ever national debut, took on the University of Windsor Lancers Saturday evening. The defending champions, the Lancers, dominated the Axewomen, taking a 94-46 victory -- the second most lopsided victory in CIS history.
Last place in the tournament, the U of C Dinos took on the number one-ranked team, the University of Regina Cougars. With a full crowd behind them, the Dinos took the lead hot and hungry, resulting in a 75-66 upset.
"Everyone was playing really well, especially our bench," said Dinos forward Alex Cole. "We stuck together as a team and tried to have fun."
Sunday was an intense day of basketball. Shooting 41 per cent from the floor, UBC defeated Ottawa 59-51, despite being heavily out-rebounded. The win sent UBC to the finals for their fourth time out of their last five CIS championship appearances.
Windsor returned to defend their title for the third-straight year after dealing the Dinos a 81-71 defeat in the semi-final.
"We learned that our players are tough, they are resilient and they know how to handle adversity," said Dinos head coach Shawnee Harle. "These games in the Final 8 challenged our team to take their game to another level -- they responded with a fighting spirit."
The bronze-medal game, held Monday afternoon, was fought between the Dinos and Ottawa. Ottawa captured their first-ever medal, out-rebounding Calgary to a 79-73 victory.
"I don't know what else we could have done," said Harle. "I felt we emptied the tank. We played every defence we had, we ran everything in our playbook and all of our quick hits. It was two possessions too late and that's all."
After weeks of preparation and a weekend of games, UBC and Windsor met to decide who would win the Bronze Baby Trophy and become the CIS champions. Windsor took over quickly, outshooting and out-rebounding UBC to a 69-53 win.
"With the depth and talent in the Final 8, I knew we would have to play our best basketball of the year to win a game. Playing against such talented offence at the Final 8 certainly challenged us at the defensive end, certainly something we could improve on," said Harle. "This tournament gave our players the experience and vision they needed in order to see what it takes to win a national championship."
The Dinos will be losing guards Jenna Kaye and Megan Lang this season. Plenty of recruiting will be done over the summer in order to stay at their current level.
"We're losing a fantastic point guard in Kaye and a defensive catalyst in Lang, so we'll be looking for replacements, primarily in those two positions," said Dinos assistant coach Claire Mitton.