There aren't too many teams that can survive the loss of an OUA most valuable player.
And the Lakehead Thunderwolves were not the exception to the rule on Friday night, seeing their season come crashing to a halt after Jylisa Williams was knocked out of their OUA women's basketball semifinal with a suspected concussion.
Williams had scored all 10 LU points before her untimely second-quarter departure and the four-time defending national champion Windsor Lancers took full advantage of the situation, reeling off 25 consecutive points en route to a 57-31 win that earned them a spot in Saturday's OUA title contest.
It certainly threw a wrench into Lakehead coach Jon Kreiner's plans.
Williams, a scoring machine who led the nation in points-per-game, has been the focal point of the Lakehead offense since she first arrived midway through last season, a distraction that kept the opposition honest.
Kreiner said the injury caught the rest of his players off guard and seemed to unnerve them.
Playing without Williams wasn't something they'd even practiced.
"We didn't even have a chance to put ourselves in that position," said Kreiner, reached by phone in Windsor, Ont. after the game.
"And now we were in a position where we had to score. It was going to be a tough game even with Jylisa in the lineup."
Though upset at the loss of arguably the country's best player, Kreiner said it was simply part of the game, a tough break as the Wolves were trying to work their transition game up the court.
"I didn't think there was any intent. I don't think there was any dirtiness to the play. Sometimes those plays just happen."
The Lancers pounced with Williams gone, outscoring the Wolves 20-2 in the decisive second quarter.
It was all-star Korissa Williams, who finished with 21 points and 11 rebounds, and Emily Prevost who led the charge before half. Prevost, whose shoulder knocked Jylisa Williams from the contest, hit three straight buckets to stretch the lead from eight when Jylisa Williams exited, to 14. Korissa Williams, voted the OUA's top defender, showed why with back-to-back steals that led to Windsor baskets, four of the eight points she'd score in the quarter.
Down 35-10, Kreiner said the likelihood of rebounding against the No. 1 team in the country was slim to none.
Instead, he urged his players to go out with their heads held high, with a few words from Williams, who spent much of the second-half fighting nausea in the Thunderwolves dressing room.
"I asked them to win the third quarter," Kreiner said. "Our defence was good, we just couldn't catch up."
It was back-up guard and Thunder Bay native Cassandra Soulias who stopped Windsor's 27-0 run, burying a three-pointer that cut the Windsor lead to 43-14. Soulias completed another three-point play seconds later and finished with eight.
"She stepped up," Kreiner said.
Katelyn Andrea gave the No. 9 Wolves a glimmer of hope at the buzzer, dropping a three-pointer of her own to give Lakehead a 13-12 win in the third, but down 24 at the time, the Lancers had already sealed the win.
Carly Steer had back-to-back three-pointers in the final frame to remove any further doubt.
Despited the lopsided nature of the loss, Kreiner's first crack at the OUA Final Four, the 12th-year coach said his players can hold their heads high.
"I'm really proud of our ladies," Kreiner said. "Every minute we played past the regular season is good for our girls. They really came together. We really felt we were a team that could compete for a championship."
The Lancers will take on Ryerson in Saturday's OUA championship. The Rams earned their berth in the final with a 69-60 win over Queen's. Both teams have already clinched spots at next week's Final 8 tournament in Laval, Que.