Jon Kreiner is looking at the bright side of an OUA women’s basketball season that looked like it might go awry.
On Saturday night his troops sent him home for the holidays in a happy mood, though it took them most of the game to do it.
Ayse Kalkan scored a pair of key baskets late in the fourth quarter, helping the Lakehead Thunderwolves to a somewhat stunning fourth-quarter comeback and a semester-ending 77-75 win over the visiting York Lions.
The victory, fuelled by career-best 20-point performance by Ashley Randall, a game Kreiner called her best in an LU uniform, improved Lakehead’s record to 3-4 and mired them in the midst of a five-team race for the final OUA West playoff berth.
“Big win, tough game,” said Kreiner. “York came to play. They played us really, really tough.”
For a team that trailed after each of the first three quarters and looked flat for most of the contest, trailing by as many as eight points early in the fourth, the Thunderwolves showed plenty of character in gritting this one out.
“We really hit clutch shots down at the end. They really did a good job on Kelsey Bardsley and Ayse. But down the stretch I said just be patient, the shots will come.”
Bardsley keyed the comeback midway through the fourth, nailing a two-pointer followed in rapid succession with a three that pulled the Wolves even at 71-71 for the first time since the opening tip-off. After Randall missed an open layup and hit just one of two free throws to leave Lakehead short a point with just over a minute to play, Kalkan took a feed from Rachael Bland to put LU back on top.
Cyrielle Recoura, the game’s high scorer with 22, put York back on top with a quick hoop that took just 10 seconds. But Kalkan pounced on a Bland miss and put the ball in the basket with 38.7 seconds left, putting the ball back into the Lions hands.
Randall fouled out, sending Nadia Qahwash to the line, but the York starter missed both ensuing free throws.
Bardsley had a chance to stretch the Lakehead lead to three at the charity stripe, but only managed to hit one, and with 10 seconds left the Lions had one last chance. But they couldn’t make the one basket they really needed and as a result fell to 1-6 at the Christmas break.
“It was a great feeling. Our team definitely stepped up together and we played as a team tonight. We’re getting to the point that we just know each other is going to be there and we have faith in one another,” Randall said. “We worked really hard and we wanted that win.”
It completed a weekend sweep, the Wolves earning a 73-48 win over Laurentian the night before, and sends the team into the holidays with a positive feeling after such a negative 1-4 start.
“We were definitely frustrated and we were talking about how we need to step up and stuff,” said Randall, who also had eight rebounds for Lakehead, who trailed 40-38 at the half and 54-51 after three.
“We know how we can play. We were saying we have to pick up our defence because we know that’s what’s going to bring us back into the games.”
Countless times Lakehead stopped the Lions dead in their tracks, forcing turnover after turnover on shot-clock violations.
Of course had York hit more than 13 of the 25 free throws they were awarded, the final result may have told a different tale. Lakehead also controlled the boards, out-rebounding the Lions 47-34.
The Wolves next action is in Halifax, starting on Dec. 28, when they’ll play in the CIS Holiday Classic hosted by former LU assistant Brandon Rafuse at the home of the Saint Mary’s Huskies.
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