DAVID LARKINS, Wesmen Athletics
After a 1-7 start to the Canada West conference season, the Winnipeg Wesmen women's basketball team was in need of a dose of confidence.
Count a 2-1 performance at the Wesmen Classic this weekend as another shot in the arm for a Wesmen team that will now look to make a push towards the post-season when the calendar turns to 2019.
Tournament MVP Christina McCusker had 18 points and 13 rebounds and the Regina Cougars topped the Wesmen 65-54 in the championship game of the 52nd annual Classic, which featured women's basketball for the first time.
The Wesmen can feel good about getting two more wins under their belt, which came after they closed the first half of the Canada West season with three wins in four games.
A 22-7 first quarter put the Wesmen in catch-up mode immediately and the home side went into halftime down 31-15. The Cougars led by as many as 19 in the second half, but Winnipeg made a push with an 11-0 run that bracketed the end of the third quarter and the start of the fourth. A Faith Hezekiah three cut the Regina lead to 46-42 with nine minutes left in the fourth quarter, but the Wesmen weren't able to get any closer.
"We spotted them 22-7 in the first quarter and I think we started finally playing some defence, which was great, in the second quarter," head coach Tanya McKay said. "In the second half I thought we played much better, outscored them. We just needed more down the stretch. ... It was a great effort by our kids."
Hezekiah, named a tournament all-star, finished with 27 points and eight rebounds. She averaged 29.7 points per game over the course of the three Classic contests. Farrah Castillo, also named a tournament all-star, dropped 14 points for the Wesmen.
Regina got 13 points from Michaela Kleisinger and 10 from tournament all-star Kyanna Giles.
Earlier in the day, the Lakehead Thunderwolves knocked off the Manitoba Bisons 72-46 to take third place. Karissa Kajorinne, a tournament all-star, led all scorers with 24 points, while Leashja Grant added 15 with 12 rebounds. Nikki Ylagan also had 15 points.
Lana Mackick, named a tournament all-star, had 12 points to lead the Bisons.
In the fifth-place game, the Calgary Dinos handled the Brandon Bobcats 78-41. Kiki Knox had a game-high 17 off the bench and Bobbi Jo Colburn added 15 points.
Lauren Anderson's 11 topped the Bobcats.
In the seventh-place game, Algoma topped UBC-Okanagan 57-54.