The University of Regina’s women’s basketball team earned an automatic berth to next weekend’s U SPORTS Championship and will play for a Canada West title after an 81-70 win over Winnipeg on Friday night in a Canada West semifinal game at the Physical Activity Centre on the University of Saskatchewan campus.
Christina McCusker had a huge game for the Cougars, scoring a career-high 22 points to lead the U of R while Avery Pearce added 13 points and Kyanna Giles scored 11.
“We had a lot of different people step up and make shots tonight,” Cougars head coach Dave Taylor said. “You’ll hear this quote a lot from me at this point of the season – it wasn’t always pretty, but a win is a win in the postseason and I’m absolutely thrilled with this team for making it back to nationals.”
The Cougars will square off with Canada West Final Four host Saskatchewan on Saturday night (7:00) as the two provincial rivals meet in the conference championship game for the second time. Regina and the U of S also played for a Canada West title in both 2011 and 2016 in Saskatoon, with the Huskies winning both of those contests.
McCusker was 8-for-14 from the field also had six rebounds for the Cougars. Her previous career high was 20 points, set a month ago against this same Winnipeg team. Most of Pearce’s 13 points came on her three first-half triples, while Kyanna Giles fell just short of a double-double with nine rebounds. Kyanna’s twin sister Kyia Giles was brilliant off the bench for the Cougars, collecting eight points, nine rebounds, and a game-high four assists in 21 minutes played.
After a tight first quarter which saw the game tied at 19, the second quarter was all Cougars. They scored the first nine points of the period and 16 of the first 20, and ended up taking a 51-36 lead into halftime after outscoring Winnipeg by a 32-17 margin during the second. Regina caught fire in that quarter, shooting over 63% from the field and getting a pair of three-pointers from Pearce – her second and third of the game – and one triple apiece from Katie Polischuk, Sara Hubenig, and Michaela Kleisinger.
The Cougars took their largest lead of the game at 58-39 four minutes into the third, but Winnipeg – which was an impressive 18-2 in Canada West play this season – had a response. The Wesmen ended the third on a 14-4 run to get within six points after three quarters, but that was as close as they’d get. Regina opened the fourth quarter with six straight points, including a huge transition three by Polischuk to put the Cougars up 73-61 two minutes in. Regina held Winnipeg to just nine points in the final period to seal the win and clinch the program’s eighth appearance in the conference championship in the last 10 years.