This season has been all about program firsts for the Trinity Western Spartans women’s basketball team and this weekend was no different.
The Spartans knocked off the Alberta Pandas 70-64 on Friday night at the Langley Events Centre, and combined with a 62-53 win in game one, took the Canada West best-of-three quarter-final series 2-0.
The victory advances TWU to the Canada West semifinal series for the first time ever.
Previous Spartans accomplishments this season include back-to-back winning seasons, a program-high 16 regular season victories, earning a U hosting Canada West quarter-finals, and now playing in the conference semifinals.
The teams were tied at the half in game two and the Spartans took a two-point lead into the fourth quarter. The Pandas were within two points late in the fourth quarter but Kayla Gordon and Tessa Ratzlaff each knocked down a pair of clutch free throws in the final 20 seconds and Ratzlaff also securing a huge offensive rebound.
“I thought we did a great job of responding to their momentum pushes and their big shots. I don’t think we ever unraveled to the point where we were out of control,” said TWU coach Cheryl Jean-Paul.
“(Game one), it was about tempo and today they tried to slow us down with their press and I thought we stayed disciplined enough to take care of the press.
“I just thought there were really strong stretches of composure and that’s what you need to win big games.”
Jessie Brown had 14 of her team-high 21 points in the second half while Ratzlaff had 18 points and Gordon had 17 points and a team-high 12 rebounds.
The trio all surpassed the 1,000-point plateau for their Spartans careers this past season and have been central to helping the program achieve success. Jean-Paul also said it was fitting all three had a big hand in the team’s game two victory,
“Those two years when we went to split divisions, those three (Ratzlaff, Gordon and Brown) had to learn a lot of hard lessons. They had to go up against all-stars every weekend and they had to go against a ranked team almost every other weekend,” she said.
“I think the benefits are that now they’re playing like all-stars and we’re playing like a ranked team. I wouldn’t change those years for anything because I think it really set the tone for what we’re achieving right now.
With the victory, the Spartans — ranked ninth nationally — will now travel to Saskatoon to battle the No. 7 Saskatchewan Huskies. The teams split their regular season games back in January.
Games one and two are Feb. 22 and 23, and if necessary, game three would be Feb. 24.