Global warming is not an issue in Winterpeg. Just ask the University of Calgary women b-ballers. They had to fight off intolerable Winnipeg weather--as well as two of the toughest teams in the league--to extend their incredible winning streak to eight straight games. But streaks don't come easy.
"It was -49ÂºC with the wind-chill [on the weekend]," noted Dino head coach Shawnee Harle. "I don't know how people live there."
But Harle and her Dinos know how to win there. The red hot Dino offence, led by Courtney Coyle (45 points over the weekend) and Michelle Wilson (38 points, 23 rebounds), scorched the University of Manitoba Bisons (13-7) 86-71 Fri., Feb. 2 and burned the University of Winnipeg Wesmen (12-8) 97-85 Sat., Jan. 3. With the two wins, Calgary completed a sweep of the entire Great Plains division.
"We played some very good basketball," said Harle. "And the thing that impressed me the most: we played very good team basketball."
The formidable Dino offence is a testament to team basketball. They have one of the best and most efficient offences in the league, ranking second in points (80.7 points per game), first in free throw percentage (.735), and third in field goal percentage (.458)--all without a player in the top five of league scoring. At 14.2 points per game, captain Lindsay Maundrell is the highest ranked Dino scorer, eighth in the league.
Between the two games, as many as six different Dinos hit double digit numbers in points. Comparing that to Winnipeg's one dimensional attack from league scoring leader Uzo Asagwara (26.8 ppg,), who scored a whopping 36 of her team's 85 points last weekend--and it's clear--it is a tale of two very different teams.
"It was really tough in the beginning because we played a lot of the top teams in the country," said rookie forward Ashley Hill, who had 31 points over the weekend and was a perfect 10 for 10 from the charity stripe. "[But] we're gaining confidence. Our team chemistry is better, and we're playing more as a team."
Dino teamwork could give them an edge over the fourth-ranked University of Saskatchewan Huskies (15-5) Feb. 9-10. Like the Wesmen, the Huskies rely heavily on their terrible two: Sarah Crooks (23.6 PPG, 11.6 rebounds) and Ashley Dutchak (18 PPG, 4.36 assists per game). The game plan is clear against these types of teams.
"These two games are going to decide first, second and third in the division," said Maundrell. "They're both winnable. We know they have two go-to players [Crooks and Dutchak] that get 75 per cent of their scoring. So we've just got to focus on those two players."
Maundrell will also be the centre of attention this weekend. There is a ceremony Saturday night commemorating her final game in the friendly confines of the Jack Simpson Gym--at least until playoffs start.
"I'm the only fifth-year, so the focus will be directly on me," said Maundrell, while squirming uncomfortably on the bench. Despite being team captain, she doesn't seem used to the spotlight.
Harle's eyes moistened at the thought of her star forward and good friend departing.
"That's going to be a tough night for me," said Harle. "It's really hard to say goodbye to kids you've been with for five years."
If everything plays out as it should, Dino players and coaching staff will be shedding tears of joy, not woe. If the captain can lead her troops to 10 consecutive wins this weekend, she has a chance to go out on top.
Two wins at the Jack and Calgary can claim, at the very least, home-court advantage for the division semi-final, which fires up Feb. 16-18. In a perfect world, two wins would coincide with the University of Alberta Pandas botching one or both games against University of Lethbridge Pronghorns. The Dinos would find themselves first in the division. The first place team proceeds directly to the division final, held Feb. 23-25 in a place of their choosing, which is usually their home court.
Right now, Calgary is the most dreaded team to face in the first round.
"Our train is rolling right now and they've got to find a way to stop the train," said Harle. "We're the last team Saskatchewan wants to play right now."