Ayse Kalkan wanted to go out on a winning note.
The fifth-year veteran, playing her final home game for the Lakehead Thunderwolves women’s basketball team, got her wish.
But it wasn’t just for personal reasons.
Kalkan, who dropped 15 points on the Guelph Gryphons, helping the Wolves secure a winning record with an 87-78 triumph, said hitting the playoffs on the highest note possible is the only thing that mattered Saturday night.
“We’re going into playoffs on a high and that’s especially good for us because we’ve had a pattern of winning one night and losing the other night. So that was out goal coming into this weekend, so it was definitely a good thing,” Kalkan said.
The Winnipeg native was one of five Thunderwolves players honoured in a post-game ceremony, a group that included British import and long-distance threat Kelsey Bardsley, former Hammarskjold High School star Jessica de Haan, Thunder Bay’s own Lindsay Inkila and injured Ashley Randall.
It was a back-and forth affair, the Wolves making it more difficult when Jylisa Williams drew a technical foul midway through the third quarter and was forced to sit for more than a quarter’s worth of action with four fouls.
Rather than use it as an excuse to let the game slip away, the LU women seemed to rally off the adversity of losing Williams, who’d already posted 11 points in the third.
“It definitely hurts when J’s out. She’s definitely a scoring power. We just had to move the ball around some more and find the open looks,” Kalkan said.
Guelph hit all four foul shots they were awarded on the play, but the Wolves responded in a hurry, courtesy of a Bardsley trey, the final regular season three in her three-year tenure.
Kalkan scored six quick points, and then after Regan Duff pulled the Gryhons within three, Katie Ulakovic took over, nailing a three to extend the lead to six, a margin that grew by two when de Haan beat the buzzer on a short jumper.
Guelph never closed within six the rest of the way.
“We really wanted to prove to ourselves that we could win two nights in a row and that we could beat any team,” said Inkila, who had four points in her home-court finale.
“I think we moved the ball well. We just came into the game ready to go. I think we were just ready and we really just wanted to win tonight for each other.”
The Wolves were paced by 22 points from Williams. Marlee Freeman and Katherine MacTavish topped the Gryphons, who led 45-43 at the half, with 20 points apiece.
LU coach Jon Kreiner said it was an emotional night.
“We’ve got some kids who really care a lot about each other and when that situation happens the emotions come out,” Kreiner said.
Lakehead opens the playoffs Wednesday in Hamilton when they take on the McMaster Marauders. The two teams split a pair of games earlier this season at the Thunderdome.
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