The Brandon University women’s basketball team didn’t end its five-game home stand the way the Bobcats would have liked on Thursday.
The Bobcats struggled in the middle part of their Canada West contest at the Healthy Living Centre, getting shut out in the second quarter and held to four field goals in the third. Brandon rallied for a late charge in the fourth quarter, but couldn’t pull it off and fell 58-54.
"It wasn’t until the fourth when we figured it out and started playing harder," Bobcats head coach Novell Thomas said. "We can’t let it happen, but when offensive woes hurt us or when things struggle at the offensive end, it’s affecting our effort and our demeanour at the defensive end, and we can’t let that happen.
The Bobcats (5-10) had a solid first quarter and built a 21-17 lead, but they struggled after that. The team couldn’t get a shot to fall in the second quarter and made only four of its 35 field-goal attempts in the second and third to trail by 15.
It was a very uncharacteristic run for Brandon as players missed open looks and layups that they usually make, and Kaela Cranston felt if the Wesmen (7-8) weren’t rushing BU’s shots, then the players were in their own heads feeling they had to get them off quickly.
"I think we just thought we were rushed," she said. "Their defence is the same throughout the whole game, so it’s not like they were doing anything differently. I think it was just we were in our own heads, rushing and not playing the way we know how to play."
Cranston hit five three-pointers in the second half to keep the Bobcats within striking distance and they rallied from a 12-point deficit with 2:12 left to close the gap to two before Cranston missed a pair of free throws that would have tied the game with 21 seconds remaining. A technical foul called on the Bobcat bench with six seconds left ended Brandon’s comeback hopes.
Cassie Cooke finished with 13 points for the Bobcats, while point guard Aleah Bridges had 11 rebounds. Stephanie Kleysen led the Wesmen with 16 points and 12 boards, with Megan Noonan also posting 16 points.
Thursday’s game was the first of a home-and-home set between the Wesmen and the Bobcats. They’ll close it out on Saturday at the Duckworth Centre.
Although they came out on the wrong end of the scoreboard, Cranston hopes the Bobcats’ late charge will help them take some momentum into the rematch.
"If we play like that on Saturday we’ll have a good chance at winning and taking one from them," she said. "It was a good finish. There’s positives there."
Meanwhile, in the men’s game, the Wesmen (10-5) went on an 11-0 run late in the fourth quarter and hung on to beat the host Bobcats 77-69, putting a huge dent in the playoff hopes for Brandon (5-10). The Bobcats are now five games back of the Wesmen for the final playoff spot in the Prairie Division with seven games left.
Jordan Reaves had 13 points and 11 rebounds for Brandon, while Ilarion Bonhomme had a team-high 16 points. Steven Wesley led Winnipeg with 23 points and 14 boards.
The teams will face each other again on Saturday in Winnipeg.
CAT SCRAPS: Bobcat F Amy Williams left the women’s game late in the third quarter after rolling her left ankle. She is hopeful to play on Saturday.