Friday was all about avoiding the Windsor Lancers for long as possible.
Knowing a pair of wins against playoff outsider Guelph would secure fifth place in the OUA West, the Lakehead women’s basketball team set out to make it happen.
With the exception of letting their foot off the gas in the fourth quarter, the Thunderwolves executed their plan to near perfection, building a 33-point lead and coasting to an 87-74 triumph that ensured the Wolves will finish at .500 or better.
Fourth-year guard Katie Ulakovic led the attack with 19 points, while Kelsey Bardsley, playing her penultimate regular- season contest, her father making the trek from England to the Thunderdome to watch her university career come to a close, chipping in 16.
“From now on we think of every game going forward one at a time. We’ll go tomorrow and if we win tomorrow it plays a good part in helping us go further into the playoffs.
The win pulled Lakehead into a fifth-place tie with Brock at 11-10. A Brock loss on Saturday – they face the Lacers, the No. 1 team in the nation – or a Lakehead win and the Thunderwolves would claim the higher seed.
Hitting the post-season on a winning note is a lot better than trying to shake off a loss, Bardsley said.
“Oh yeah, definitely. We want to go into the playoffs on a winning streak and carry that through,” she said.
The Wolves set the pace early in this one, riding a 13-0 first-quarter run to a 25-5 lead.
Bardsley hit back-to-back threes to start the run, which also included five points from Jessica de Haan and five more from Ulakovic.
The led by 17 after one and took a 44-27 lead into the third, which saw Lakehead pull away with a 15-2 run.
Ulakovic hit a pair of threes in the quarter, collecting nine points as the Wolves ran their lead to 31.
The Gryphons fought valiantly back in the third, LU coach Jon Kreiner resting his starters for long stretches, including guard Jylisa Williams, the OUA’s second-leading scorer and rebounder.
Williams still managed to put together a pretty good game, scoring 12 points to go with eight boards and nine rebounds.
Still, Kreiner was happy to see that he’s got other options to lean on if teams manage to bottle Williams up.
“The fact that Katie is heating up for us at this time of year is huge for us. Having Katie and Kelsey hitting on the same night is going to be probably critical to take us deep into the playoffs. It’s going to give Essa (Jacobsen) and Jylisa more room,” Kreiner said.
Seventh-place Guelph (7-14) was led by guard Erin Tilley, who scored a season-high 23 points, 10 more than her previous best. Tilley did much of her damage in the fourth, scoring nine points at the Gryphons outscored the Thunderwolves 35-17. Marlee Freeman had eight of her 10 points in the final quarter.
Claw marks: It was Lakehead’s third-highest offensive output of 2013-14, three short of the 89 they put up against Waterloo … The Wolves faltered at the charity stripe, hitting just 18 of 32 free-throw attempts … Katelyn Zen had six points in her return to the lineup.
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