Silver linings

Women’s basketball surprises at Provincials

By Eric Wilkins, Sports Editor

The women’s basketball team had a bit of an up-and-down year. On their way to compiling an 8-13 record, there were some big wins and some tough losses, but they’d found a way to win when it mattered, clinching their berth at the Provincial tournament with a victory over Langara in the final week of the regular season.

In the quarterfinal matchup, the Royals took on the #4 seed, the Capilano University Blues. The Blues, with a 10-11 record, had to be feeling good about their chances heading in. Capilano took the first four points of the game, but then Douglas’ offence exploded. After a Mackenzie Brenner layup with four minutes left in the quarter, the Royals went on a 15-point run—completely shutting out the Blues. The game continued in much the same way, including a dominant third that left the tournament hosts on top 70-39 thanks to some solid all-round team play. When the final buzzer went, the Royals were going to the semi-final on the back of an 82-58 win.

If the Royals weren’t huge underdogs in the quarterfinal, they sure were for the semi. The Vancouver Island University (VIU) Mariners had set a PACWEST record with 20 wins in the regular season, sweeping Douglas 3-0 along the way. To open the game, the Mariners played like the #1 seed should, racing out to an 11-1 lead. But then, things changed. After two baskets from Nanaya Miki and a three at the buzzer to end the quarter from Chloe Kennedy, the game had shifted from a possible blowout to a tight one-point game. After almost three more quarters of the low-scoring affair, the Royals found themselves down 43-38 with just over three minutes left.

Then, in one of the clutch performances of the year, Kennedy drained a three with 1:52 left and Brenner found a way to tie it up with 1:01 until the buzzer. No scoring in the final minute meant the teams were heading to a five-minute overtime session. In OT, it came down to the last minute. With 33.4 seconds on the clock and the Royals down by two, Adelia Paul took to the free-throw line—and sunk them both. After another stymied VIU attack, Kennedy snagged the ball and took it the distance. She then hit a free-throw with 10 seconds left for a three-point lead. VIU’s last chance came on an inbounds pass with .5 seconds to go, but the Royals shut the door. The game ended with a score of 50-47. Douglas was going to be playing for gold.

Kennedy was thrilled with the result against VIU: “It was such an amazing feeling knowing that we played our absolute best out there and came through with a win against a really strong, veteran team. It feels so much better when you win knowing that you were considered the underdog.”

The Quest University Kermodes were riding a streak that had seen them win 10 of their last 11 games (including the quarter- and semi-finals of the tournament), but with the way the Royals were playing, both the players and the crowd had to think anything was possible. Just like the game against VIU, the Royals found themselves down early. A few minutes into the second frame, Douglas was down 23-12, but then, just as in the semi-final, they found a way back: 28-24 at half. Unfortunately, that was the end of the Royals’ bid for gold. The third-quarter saw Quest outscore the hosts 27-13 before a back-and-forth final 10 minutes finished the game with the Kermodes on top 69-52.

While obviously disappointed with not winning gold, coach Courtney Gerwing was pleased with the team’s efforts: “Tough to finish the season with a lost but we played hard. We gave away too many defensively in the third quarter and we dug ourselves a hole we couldn’t get out of. But I’m incredibly proud of the way the team played through that whole game and the whole provincial tournament. We were ready to go and I think we surprised a few people, but I don’t think we surprised ourselves because we knew the progress we had been making each week and we really improved our team chemistry—I think that showed.” Gerwing also had a message for the Royal faithful, “Thanks to the fans, to our Douglas college student athletes, and to our families and friends who came out to support us; as it really meant a lot that the gym was packed and loud, and we felt like there was a real force that rallied behind us all tournament.

In addition to the team accomplishments, Miki and Kennedy were named to the Tournament All-Star Team.

With no fifth-years, and some impressive development this season, these Royals will be a force to be reckoned with next fall.