The Dinos women's basketball team began their season with seven returning players--three of them second years--and five rookies. Although this lack of experience didn't show in a strong pre-season, the squad dropped their first four regular season contests.
Head coach Shawnee Harle realized something needed to be done and, in true MacGyver style, took out her trusty bag of tricks. With some new offensive and defensive strategies the Dinos' Rubik's cube was solved. The team went on to win 12 straight games, including three non-conference, before dropping one to the University of Alberta Pandas. They were not deterred however, winning another four before crunch time arrived.
Their final regular season games were against the Canada West central division leaders, the University of Saskatchewan Huskies. A pair of wins would have secured the Dinos the top spot in the division and home-court advantage for the division finals. However, the glue came undone. The Huskie women took both games.
This put the Dinos in the central division semi-final against the Pandas--against who they were 3-1. The best-of-three series took place in the Jack Simpson Gymnasium Feb. 17-18.
On Friday, the game teetered on a cliff, with the Pandas trying to shove it over the edge and the Dinos trying to pull it back to safety. During the first half, the game was tied eight times, with the Pandas coming out ahead at the buzzer 32-36.
A couple of hefty tugs pulled the Dinos ahead just over four minutes into the second half. Their lead was short-lived however; the Pandas immediately went on a 10-point run to gain their largest lead of the game at 40-49.
Luckily, the Dinos MacGyvered up some sort of pulley system and began using the laws of physics to their advantage. The shots started dropping, and before they knew it, the Dinos had tied the game at 56 with just under six minutes left.
The Dinos accumulated a lead and hung on for dear life. Our ladies led 66-61 with 1:41 to play, but a couple of free throws got the Pandas within three 10 seconds later. Over the next 1:20, seven balls bounced off rims and backboards at various ends of the court. But nothing went in until the Pandas hit a crucial two-pointer with just eight seconds left.
With everything on the line, Kara Stevens had one final chance for the Pandas as she let a shot rip with three seconds to play. Good one Kara, way to let your team down. The Dinos secured the first-game win 66-65.
Tanya Hautala led the Dinos' scoring effort with 16 points. Despite roughing up the poor fuzzy Pandas and both fouling out, Lindsay Maundrell and Courtney Coyle each added 12 points in the effort.
In Saturday's rematch, the Dinos came out with purpose and determination. They knew they could beat the Pandas and were going to show us how it's done. With just over four minutes to play in the first half, the Dinos were up 28-23 and decided they'd had enough. The remainder of the half saw the Dinos hit 16 more points while the Pandas hit just three.
The Dinos hit the first four points of the second half, stretching their lead to 48-26. While the Pandas made some good drives, the Dinos stood their ground and secured the series with an 84-66 win.
Hautala led the Dinos again with 24 points and three steals. Maundrell kicked in a double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds, adding five steals for good luck. Coyle and Michelle Willson added 13 points each, with Willson hauling down eight boards.
With the pair of wins in hand, the Dinos headed east to Saskatchewan for the central division finals against the Huskie women Feb. 24-26. The Huskies had beaten our ladies in all four of their regular season contests, so the Dinos would have to be solid to take a pair of wins.
And the Dinos were as solid as ice. They came out on Friday and traded the lead with the Huskie women throughout the first half. Despite the Huskies dropping a few towards the buzzer, the Dinos had poured enough points in to lead 44-40 at the half.
The Dinos held their lead until a tie at 50 points. After a few more exchanges, the Dinos found themselves down six points with three minutes to play. But as the Dinos' icy solidness began to melt, they became deceptively slippery. They poured in 10 unanswered points and took a 79-75 win.
Maundrell hit 20 points in the game while Hautala and Coyle added 16 and 11 respectively. Willson had 10 points and four steals.
On Saturday, the Dinos found themselves melting away in hot water early on. The Huskie women managed to get ahead 21-9 with 8:31 to play in the first half. The Dinos did not cave however, going on a 15-2 run to get a two-point lead at 4:20.
But something magical happened at that time to mellow the Dinos right out. When the smoke cleared, the Huskie women had a slim 36-34 half time lead. As the mellow wore off, the Dinos were focused on the light at the end of their tunnel. Four minutes into the second half they were up 40-48. The lead held up until a six-point Huskies' rush put them within one point with just under 10 minutes to play.
The game was tied at 57, 59 and 62 before the dogs began to pull away with the victory sled. The game finished in a 75-68 Huskies triumph.
Hautala was huge for the Dinos, putting in 41 points and grabbing three steals. Under the net, Maundrell made her best effort with 12 each of points and rebounds as well as four steals.
Sunday's deciding game was the last ray of sun for the Dinos. The Huskie women put the heat on early and kept turning it up. By the half, the Huskies had accumulated a 53-34 lead. They led by as many as 36 points in the second half and didn't give the Dinos much to go on. By the end of the game, the Dinos were reduced to a puddle and mopped off the Huskies' court 106-76.
Hautala fronted the charge with 18 points while Maundrell trailed with 15.
While the season is now over for our lady ballers, it's not all bad. For such a young team they had a great run. As the players grow in experience over the next few years, expect to see even better things out of this squad.