Perhaps the one crucial mistake the Calgary Dinos made on Sunday was to rattle the cage of Kayli Sartori.
The Cascades star player, competing in her final game on home court, was knocked to the floor hard in the first quarter of Sunday’s decisive game three. But she got back up, hit a pair of free throws and then hit a long three-pointer on the next play.
Sartori came alive, and along with teammate Shayna Litman, put the Cascades on her back. She scored 15 in the first half, en route to 20 points, six assists and five rebounds to help UFV win 69-60 and advance to the next round of the Canada West playoffs.
She said the collision helped get her engine started.
“I don’t know what exactly happened but it was hard and right in the ear,” she said. “It felt like my ear was bleeding, but the worst thing to do is to try to hurt me. It’s going to fire me up and backfire on them, and I came back down and hit a step back three.”
Forward Shayna Litman was also a key contributor on Sunday, scoring 22 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. Sartori said the series win is a big step for the team.
“To see a young team accomplish this and react to adversity like this is amazing,” she said.
Cascades head coach Al Tuchscherer said after a bad game one, his team – especially his veterans – picked up their game.
“We were just really soft in game one,” he said, of Friday’s 67-48 loss. “We didn’t play hard, didn’t rebound well and didn’t play playoff basketball.”
He said his vets made the difference.
“Our veterans played like vets as the series went on,” he said. “After that first game, the girls were angry and grumpy with each other. They used some of that to focus and really brought their compete level up.”
Sunday also gave Sartori the chance to walk off her home court a winner.
“It was nice to redeem myself from seniors night earlier this year,” she said, noting she fouled out early in that game. “It’s amazing to walk out of here with a series win.”
Tuchscherer said it’s a nice way for Sartori and Litman to leave a legacy.
“We haven’t won a playoff series in a few years,” he said. “It’s big for our program and big for Kayli and Shayna. They were both a part of our last big run, and now they have something to call their own.”
The Cascades last won a playoff series in the 2013-14 season, when they made a run to the CIS Championship.
Next up for the Cascades is the University of Saskatchewan Huskies.
The Huskies were the top-ranked team in Canada West and are well-rested after receiving a bye to the quarterfinals. The two teams split a pair of games in Abbotsford back in November.
“The odds are stacked against us,” Tuchscherer said. “They’ve been sitting home and resting and were the number one team in the conference – it’s going to be tough. But as long as our girls compete, I’d give us a chance.”
Sartori said the series win has her team’s confidence on a sky-high level.
“I believe this group of girls can beat anyone,” she said.
The women open in Saskatoon on Thursday at 4:30 p.m., game two is Friday at 4:30 p.m., and game three, if necessary, occurs on Saturday at noon.
The weekend also marked the end of the line for the Cascades men’s basketball team, as they were eliminated by the Winnipeg Wesman in the Manitoba capital on Saturday.
After dropping game one 82-76 on Thursday, UFV battled back with a 78-71 win on Friday. Star guard Manny Dulay put the team on his back, dropping 29 points to help the Cascades force a deciding game three.
Not a whole lot went right for the Cascades in game three, as they shot just 32 per cent and lost 84-59.
“We just didn’t match their energy in the third quarter, and we lost some composure after that,” Cascades head coach Adam Friesen said.
“The University of Winnipeg has shown us this weekend that when they get on a run, they can really go on a big one. Once they got started, we weren’t able to slow them down.”
For more on the teams, visit ufvcascades.ca.