By Woodard, Dale on February 8, 2019.
It’s been quarter of a century since the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns women’s basketball team hosted a Canada West playoff home game.
Perhaps that measurement of time makes the void seem a little larger.
But consider this, the last time a women’s playoff basketball game was hosted in Lethbridge back in 1994 -against the UBC Thunderbirds – not a single member of the 2018-19 Pronghorns women’s team was born yet.
Now, 25 years later, the current Horns will bring the post-season atmosphere to the 1st Choice Savings Centre when they host the Canada West play-in game against the Manitoba Bisons tonight at 6 p.m. at the 1st Choice Savings Centre.
“It’s really exciting because it has been a really long time since we’ve had a playoff game here, said Pronghorns veteran Kacie Bosch as her team wrapped up practice Thursday morning. “Playoffs in general have been a bit of a rough go for the women’s side, but we’re really excited we’ll have the opportunity to play at home again and bring fans in and hopefully rally the community around our season.
“I know a lot of people have their families coming up to watch and with the students getting in free I feel like we’ll have a lot of kids from around the district.”
After starting the second semester with a pair of losses to the Saskatchewan Huskies in Saskatoon, the Horns blazed through a 6-0 homestand before splitting with the UNBC Timberwolves last weekend for the 12-8 finish that landed them tonight’s home date. The Bisons finished 8-12 this season.
“We started to mesh really well as a team,” said Bosch, whose team goes into tonight’s game ranked sixth compared to the Bisons 10th seed.
“We were looking for everybody on the court and everyone is getting an equal amount of shots and we’re just working really well together. Dave (Waknuk, Pronghorns interim head coach) has done a really good job of scouting the other teams for us and we’re just trying to follow the game plan that he has given us and it has worked out pretty well.
“Last year we were really excited just to make it to playoffs. This year we’re still excited, but now we expected ourselves to be there and we’re treating it like another business trip even though it’s at home. We’re really excited to play.”
And end the quarter-century drought in the process.
“I think for us that’s pretty exciting because that has always been a program goal, we wanted to host a playoff game and now we’re here,” said Waknuk. “This is not always a week you get to play, so we’re just happy to keep playing basketball in for us to have a chance to stay home and play in front of our crowd, we’re really excited about it.
“Our goal has been to just keep playing our best basketball until the end of the year and now here we are towards the end of the year. I think we’re still working on our decision making offensively in our ball pressure on defense. Those are things that have really separated us in the second half of the season, so we’ve been continuing to stick with that and continuing to focus on what has been making us successful so far.”
That was the post practice message from the coach to his players as the team’s wrapped up Thursday morning’s session.
“It’s the same structure and we’re trying to approach this just like another game,” said Waknuk. “Yes, it’s playoff basketball, but I don’t think we have to suddenly become a different team. We just have to do what we do well that was our focus this week. We didn’t prepare much differently than we have all year. We’re not trying to change our focus too much, we’re just trying to be the best version of ourselves on Friday.”
Tonight will mark the first meeting between the two teams.
Still, the Horns have brushed up on the opponents they’ll need to get past to advance to next weeks best-of-three quarter-finals.
“They play really strong in their guards,” said Bosch, who led the Horns wiht 15.1 points per game this season. “They have a couple of girls to average around 15 points a game, so we just have to make sure we can stop them, box out and get some boards because they’re really good at crashing the out board. But other than that we just have to follow our game plan and we’re ready to go.”
“They’re a dynamic offensive team and they’re well-coached,” added Waknuk. “They have two players that really lead. They’re a team that when we played them last year, they blew us out in two games in Manitoba. I think that still stings with us a little bit, but we know they’re capable of getting hot and we know they’re capable of scoring. I’ve been preaching defence all semester and I think we’re going to have to play solid defensively if we do that I think will see good things happen.”
All students from kindergarten to Grade 12 get free admission to tonight’s game.
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