By John DeCoste
The Acadia women’s basketball team didn’t win at the nationals, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t leave a mark.
“There’s no word in the English language that is adequate to describe what this group of women did this season,” head coach Bev Greenlaw said Monday. “Special is inadequate, proud is also inadequate.
“It’s truly been a historic season, in so many ways.”
Acadia went 17-3 in conference play and 30-6 overall, won the Atlantic championship and advanced to nationals.
After an embarrassing 94-46 blowout loss Saturday at the hands of the Windsor Lancers, the Axewomen had to regroup for their consolation semifinal Sunday afternoon against the No. 1-ranked Regina Cougars.
In contrast to their tentative performance on Saturday, the Axewomen team, which won the conference championship, showed up against Regina.
Though Acadia ended up on the short end of an 87-84 score, the Axewomen went basket-for-basket with the top-ranked Cougars for 40 minutes in an entertaining and well-played game.
“Yesterday’s game proved we belonged at this level,” Greenlaw said Monday. “We’re not big enough, but as basketball players, we belong.”
It was apparent from the start it was a different Axewomen team – and a different mindset – than took the floor against Windsor.
Exhibiting a strong team effort and confident shooting, Acadia scored the game’s first nine points and at one point in the opening quarter led 14-3.
No one expected it to be a runaway in Acadia’s favour, and it wasn’t. Regina came back to lead 18-16 after one quarter, but the Axewomen won the second quarter 27-18 for a 43-36 halftime lead.
Regina came out strong after the intermission, winning the third quarter 25-15 for a 61-58 advantage after 30 minutes. The Axewomen, however, opened the fourth quarter with a three-pointer from Abbey Duinker, and Jasmine Parent’s two-pointer gave Acadia a 63-61 lead.
The lead would change hands six more times before the end of the quarter as the two teams went head-to-head, trading baskets before Regina finally pulled away and secured a three-point victory.
The proof that Acadia was on its game was the Axewomen ended up with five players in double figures in scoring. Acadia shot 39.5 per cent from the floor and made eight three-pointers.
Kristy Moore led the way with 19 points in a strong performance despite playing with a wrist injury suffered against Windsor. Emma Duinker and Jasmine Parent added 17 apiece in their final appearances for Acadia.
Stefanie Chapman chipped in 14 in what was likely her final game, and Abbey contributed 13 points and a team-high 11 rebounds.
Greenlaw acknowledged the Axewomen “weren’t psychologically ready” for their first game.
“It’s one of those things you know is a possibility, and you hope you can bypass,” he said.
The Axewomen “weren’t necessarily intimidated by the opposition, but by the whole situation. Literally, it was a case of stage fright, and full credit to Windsor for taking advantage of the state we were in.” On the other hand, he stressed, “I believed we would show up for Regina, and we did.”
To Greenlaw, “the difference, the reason the West has dominated for so many years, and why Ontario is beginning to do so, is size – period.”
The Windsor game, the coach, said was over early in the third quarter.
“The first game was our worst-case scenario. We took it, and moved on,” he said.
Even against Regina, “size was the difference. We gave up at least two to three inches at every position. Everyone was in foul trouble, either fouled out or playing with three or four fouls, and we had to juggle a lot.”
Despite being up against a bigger team, the Axewomen didn’t quit.
“We played them basket-for-basket for the entire game. We had too much foul trouble. We wanted to prove we could play at this level, and we did. Ultimately, we’re not big enough, and big doesn’t just mean tall.”