There’s a song whose lyrics are all about being anchored down in Anchorage, Alaska, and on Monday night, the road-weary Simon Fraser Clan women’s basketball team could certainly relate.
Playing on tired legs two nights after upsetting the nationally No. 2-ranked Anchorage Seawolves in their home building, the Clan fell 77-64 to the Cal Baptist Lancers in the West Region’s championship game.
SFU was making the second Sweet 16 appearance of its NCAA tenure but were denied a berth in the national Elite 8 tournament which begins March 21 in Columbus, Ohio.
“I think the fatigue hit us in the second quarter,” said Clan head coach Bruce Langford. “In the first quarter we executed our offence well. But in the second quarter we looked significantly tired and I thought it impacted our offence.”
The tell-tale signs of a tired team?
Adrenalin to start the first and third quarters, with the requisite fatigue setting in the second and fourth, and that is precisely the pattern Monday’s game followed.
Rachel Fradgley’s lay-in had given SFU a 29-21 lead just 2:10 into the second quarter, but soon after the wheels fell off. Cal Baptist’s answer was a 17-2 run to the halftime buzzer.
Kamille Diaz started it with a trey with 7:32 left and capped it with a lay-in off a steal 2:32 before the break for a 38-31 lead at the half.
“Then at halftime, we got a second wind and talked about how this is it, and that if you want to do it, you have to do it now,” said Langford. “Coming in, I thought if we could score 85 points, we could win the game and after the first quarter (leading 25-19) I thought we might have a chance. But after our second quarter I thought we might not score in the second half.”
They actually outscored the Lancers 15-13 in the third, but in the fourth, gave up another huge run, this one 14-4 run over a span of 5:05 as the Lancers turned a tight 56-50 lead into a 70-54 lead with 2:25 left in the game.
It brought a magnificent season to an end at 26-8, and tangibly, four wins shy of the national title.
“It is disappointing but I was still kind of happy to get here,” said Clan senior point guard Ellen Kett who finished with three points, four assists and seven rebounds in her final game with the team. “It was my last game, I was pretty tired, but I don’t want to say that was definitely a factor. You’re physically tired but it’s not too hard to get up for a regional championship game.”
Losing forward Meg Wilson to a lacerated finger did not help, and Langford admitted other minor injuries, the kinds all teams face at this time of the season, made it tough for the team to be at its best.
That was especially reflected in offensive rebounds. The Clan had just six to the Lancers’ 16.
As well, although the Clan were active on offence early, Ca Baptist started out with a huge lead in overall free throw trips and built on it as the game progressed, taking 24 shots from the charity stripe versus just eight for SFU.
“I think the rebounding (discrepancy) was ridiculous, but the big part was the energy and what we were able to put forward effort wise,” Langford said. “And the fouling situation? I wasn’t in agreement with that one. We went to the hoop, but they shot 13 free throws before we shot any. It’s a little bit our style, but there were some fouls in there. We needed some luck, but we didn’t get much.
“That said, I am proud of these kids. They really came together since Meg went down. Getting to the Sweet 16 is damn hard and the two teams we had to beat to get here were very, very good teams.”
Forward Tayla Jackson led the Clan with 15 points in just 14 minutes of floor time. Elisa Homer had 14, Rachel Fradgley 12 and Ozi Nwabuko 11.
Diaz (28 points, nine rebounds and nine assists), along with Cassiday Mihalko (23 points) each hit four treys and their combined 51 points fuelled the Lancers’ extensive second- and fourth-quarter drives.
“I think I’ve left it in good hands,” said Kett, who finished her career as one of the greatest Clan players ever. “Like Langford says, we’re a young team, and all three of the rookies (Nwabuko, Tayler Drynan, Tia Tsang) all got a lot of court time and really stepped up at different times, so I am excited to see where it goes.”
Wilson and Kett are SFU’s only two graduating seniors. The rest of the team, along with key redshirts Jessica Jones and Claudia Hart, make up the roster next season, as well the team’s class of incoming freshmen.
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