Stephanie Haynes has gone from being on one of the most futile runs by a Brandon University Bobcat women’s basketball team to being on the most successful squad in 30 years.
For the first time since 1984, the Bobcats have won five games in a season, accomplishing the feat for the first time since joining the Canada West conference in the 1999-2000 season with a 57-49 win over the Manitoba Bisons on Saturday night at the Healthy Living Centre. It’s a feat that Haynes, who’s in her third year, is incredibly proud of.
"It means a lot," said Haynes, who was with the team for 48 of Brandon’s 73-game losing streak that was snapped this season. "My first three years going on that 73-game losing streak and coming back this season and winning five games now is a great accomplishment. I knew this season we would get some wins, but knowing that we got five and that we could possibly make playoffs, knowing we’ve come this far is a great feeling."
Not only have the Bobcats set a new benchmark for success, they did it by winning three straight contests at home, which is the first time they’ve done that since joining Canada West as well.
However, the way the Brandon got its fifth win wasn’t easy. The Bobcats began by turning the ball over and struggling on both ends of the court. However, the team rallied defensively in the second quarter by holding the Bisons to just three field goals. The offence started to click as well as the Bobcats overcame their 18-9 deficit in four minutes and built a 29-25 advantage at the half.
Neither team could do much offensively in the third quarter, before Brandon opened up a nine-point lead in the fourth and went on to the victory.
Despite the offensive struggles, BU head coach Novell Thomas liked the way his team played in its own zone, forcing 18 turnovers.
"If we play tough defence and create turnovers, a lot of those turnovers, a lot of those defensive positives can create offensive positives," he said. "We defend them hard and then we push in transition and that results in some mismatches and foul situations and I think in quite a few of the quarters we were the first team to the bonus, which was important."
Once again, Cassie Cooke led the way for the Bobcats (5-9), putting up 19 points and 10 rebounds. She also had five assists and three steals. Haynes also had a double-double with 10 points and 12 rebounds. Vanessa DeVries paced the Bisons (3-11) with 16 points and 11 boards, while Allison Balasko grabbed a game-high 17 rebounds.
While the Bobcats were happy to set a new team record, they know they will need better performances to get more wins this season, which includes Thursday when the Winnipeg Wesmen (6-8) come to town.
"We can’t come out like we did today and let the other team get a lead on us," Haynes said. "Definitely we need to come out strong and play hard the whole 40 minutes."