DAVID LARKINS, Wesmen Athletics
With their star player sent to the bench by the referees and their star rookie sent to the bench by a bad fall, the Winnipeg Wesmen were in desperate need of someone to step up and save the day.
Turns out, they found a few.
Lena Wenke hit two free throws with a 1:13 left, Jillian Duncan made one with 12 seconds left and Robyn Boulanger salted a Wesmen win away with a free throw of her own with three seconds left as the Winnipeg women's basketball team finished off a weekend sweep of the Fraser Valley Cascades with a 77-72 Canada West conference win Saturday night at the Duckworth Centre.
Wenke's free throws gave the Wesmen a six-point lead after UFV (0-2) had trimmed an 11-point deficit down to four. Duncan followed a couple of possessions later by making the back end of a pair that pushed the lead to a two-possession game at 76-72.
Those clutch buckets came after fifth-year senior Faith Hezekiah -- who finished with a game-high 33 points -- fouled out of the game with 2:06 to go.
"Lena took that one last attack at the rim, it was a great take and made the (free throws). That was a good senior moment," Wesmen head coach Tanya McKay said. "(Fraser Valley's) senior was the one that really rose to the occasion and elevated her team play and that's a sign of a good leader."
McKay was referring to UFV fifth-year senior Taylor Claggett, who had 10 points, five rebounds and two steals in the final eight minutes of the game. She finished with a team-high 18 points and 13 rebounds, along with five assists and three steals.
"I thought we were pretty tough down the stretch," Cascades head coach Al Tuchsherer said. "We were playing catch up again and I thought we just kept on playing and never gave up and made a game of it in the end. These are important games for especially our young kids and even our veterans are learning how to win a little bit. Winnipeg's a really tough test for us this early in the season and their veteran play kinda showed through in the end."
Hezekiah added seven rebounds and went over 30 points for the second time in the past five Canada West conference games dating back to last season, when she led the conference in such outputs.
Wenke was the only other player in double figures for the Wesmen with 11 points, six rebounds and three assists. Deb Nkiasi played key minutes down the stretch and helped out with eight points and five rebounds.
Maddy Gobeil led four Cascades in double figures with 19 points. Jessica Parker and Amanda Thompson added 12 each.
The Wesmen play their next five games on the road, starting next weekend at Alberta.
The Cascades go on a bye week next before returning to Abbotsford, B.C. for their home openers the following weekend against UBC-Okanagan.