HAMILTON – The Queens bent down the stretch but didn’t break.
Now, they’re off to the Bronze Medal Semifinals as a result.
The Red Deer Queens held off a late charge from the Mohawk Mountaineers on Thursday afternoon, picking up an 80-70 win over the hosts to advance to the Bronze Medal Semifinals at the 2023 CCAA Women’s Basketball National Championship in Hamilton.
Sandra Garcia-Bernal was named Player of the Game for the Queens after posting 11 points, four rebounds, and four steals in the win. Angong Jacob was named Player of the Game for the Mountaineers. Jacob recorded nine points, four rebounds, and three steals in the loss.
Red Deer controlled things for the vast majority of the game, but the Mountaineers hung around as things wore on. The Queens built an early nine point lead in the first quarter, as a three from Sophie Melin put Red Deer ahead 18-9 with just over two minutes to play in the frame.
The Mountaineers began to chip away, and Celina Chung beat the buzzer on a corner three to cut the deficit to just one and send the home side into the second quarter with a shot of momentum.
With the home crowd on their side, the Mountaineers looked to continue that momentum in the second quarter. The Queens had other plans, and they came out of the gates strong and built a 12-point lead for themselves late in the frame. Peighton Melton put the Queens ahead by a dozen with a layup with 1:11 to play in the first half.
Donna-Marie Borja got a layup of her own to drop before the half was out to cut the deficit down to single digits, 46-37.
In the third quarter, the Mountaineers continued to try and chip away at Red Deer’s lead. And, as the quarter wound down, they were ultimately rewarded for their efforts. Mohawk closed the third on an 8-0 run, one that was capped off by five straight points from Beth Minielly, and the Mountaineers got to within one, at 58-57.
With all of the momentum seemingly at the backs of the home side, the Queens came out in the fourth and retook control of the game. Sadie Jeffries bookended a quick 6-0 run for Red Deer, helping the Queens extend their lead. Kayla Vanbeek answered with consecutive three-pointers for the Mountaineers to cut the deficit down one once more, but the Mountaineers couldn’t find a way to overtake Red Deer.
The Queens rattled off a 9-0 run to push their lead back up to 10 with 3:13 to play, and that put an end to Mohawk’s comeback efforts.
When the final buzzer sounded, Red Deer came away with an 80-70 win over the Mountaineers, keeping their medal hopes alive in the process.
“We’ve been practicing how to stay calm under pressure and to play the game to our pace and not theirs,” said Garcia-Bernal. “After yesterday’s loss, which was a bit unexpected for us, we’re still not playing to our max.”
“It helps that we won, and hopefully we can pull it off again tomorrow.”
With the win, the Queens will now advance to the Bronze Medal Semifinals on Friday night. They will take on the loser of the first Gold Medal Semi-Final matchup between the Humber Hawks and Geants de Saint-Jean.
The Mountaineers will now take on the MSVU Mystics on Friday afternoon in the 7th / 8th Placement Game to conclude their National Championship.
- T. Bennett