DAVID LARKINS, Wesmen Athletics
On Senior Night, it was a freshman who stepped forward for the Winnipeg Wesmen.
First-year guard Anna Kernaghan had a game-high 20 points and the Wesmen women's basketball team held off a second-half rally from the Mount Royal Cougars to secure a 68-64 Canada West conference win Saturday night at the Duckworth Centre.
On a night when forward Lena Wenke was honoured for her five years of service to the program, it was Winnipeg's youngest starter who took much of the offensive load. Kernaghan added five assists, four rebounds and two steals, and shot 8-for-16 from the field.
But the Wesmen had to dig themselves out of a precarious situation that, for much of the game, they didn't look destined to encounter.
Winnipeg opened the game on a 12-0 run, led 41-24 at the half and was up by as many as 18 in the third quarter when Kernaghan hit a three with 7:28 to go that made it 48-30. But the Cougars (5-13) went on a 12-0 run to cut the lead to six before another Kernaghan three snapped a scoreless stretch of 3:21 for the Wesmen (12-6).
After the Wesmen once again re-established a double-digit lead and pushed it to 57-44 with 1:15 to go in the third, the Cougars went on another big run, outscoring the Wesmen 17-0 over the next 4:04 spanning the end of the third and start of the fourth.
"I think what they did was they changed up their defence, which took us out of our rhythm," Wesmen head coach Tanya McKay said. "And then they got hot and our kids kinda went 'Woah.' I hand it to them. Coach (Robyn Fleckenstein) did a great job making some changes and her kids played tough."
But the Wesmen held the Cougars to just three points over the final 6:06 and managed to score their third straight win.
"I thought as a group we showed some grit because we had to down the stretch," McKay said. "It got close, we got tight, but we fought through it and we didn't give up. And our kids could have easily given up ... after they took the lead. But I hand it to the kids. They stuck with it and they did the simple things well."
Wenke had seven points and five rebounds in her last conference game on her home floor.
Mount Royal was led by Marnie Garner and Jenika Martens with 14 points apiece. Sarah Rinksy added 10.
The Wesmen close their conference season next weekend at UBC before preparing for the post-season.