For the majority of the season, Stephanie Haynes has managed to stay under the radar despite logging a ton of minutes for the Brandon University Bobcats women’s basketball team and doing her job well.
Cassie Cooke, Aleah Bridges and Kaela Cranston have drawn a lot of attention, but Haynes has also been an instrumental piece for the Bobcats, who are 3-9 heading into tonight’s Canada West game against the Manitoba Bisons (3-9) at the Healthy Living Centre at 6 o’clock. The third-year guard is averaging 33.5 minutes of playing time and 7.6 points per game and has a team-high 77 rebounds this season despite her 5-foot-7 frame.
The 21-year-old science student been solid defensively and feels a lot more comfortable this season as she no longer has to worry about moving the ball up the court, like she had to during her first two seasons in the Wheat City.
"This year I’m more in my comfort zone," Haynes said. "I was never really a point guard, even though that was where I was put because we didn’t have anyone else who could do that. I’m really glad that we have a really solid point guard and shooting guard this year so that I can do what I do best."
Haynes helped the Bobcats crack the win column at the HLC on Saturday, which was the first time she won at home since coming to BU, and she hopes her team can continue its winning ways today and Saturday. However, Haynes knows it won’t be easy.
The Bisons are also 3-9 and are a much-improved team from the squad that fell to the Bobcats in the pre-season. Manitoba has solid three-point shooters, especially Robyn Eyer, who has hit a conference-high 45.5 per cent of her shots from beyond the arc, as well as a solid post presence.
Haynes played against a lot of the Manitoba players when she was in high school at St. Mary’s Academy and is always psyched to play the Bisons.
"There’s something about playing the U of M. I get a rush, and it’s a good rush," she said. "It just makes me want to show them that we are a good team as well. We’re not just a team that they can walk over.
"What I hear behind the scenes sometimes is that they can just beat us and we’re a beatable team. I think it could be a really good game and I’m excited to play them."
Bobcats head coach Novell Thomas is excited as well and knows that Haynes’ play can mean the difference between wins and losses. Opposing teams are starting to focus a lot more on Cooke, the country’s leading scorer. That means the ball will be distributed a little bit more, and Haynes may be one of the players poised to go off for a big night shooting.
"She’s been pretty consistent, especially as of late which is great," Thomas said. "We expect and we really need her to defend hard and offensively to sprint the floor, and when she gets the offensive opportunity because there’s so much focus on the others, then it’s her chance to step up and score.
"She had a good weekend last weekend and I think she’ll have a good weekend coming up."
Meanwhile, the BU men’s basketball team (4-8) will try to stretch its winning streak to four games when it hosts the Manitoba Bisons (1-11) at 8 p.m.. The Bisons are a much better team than their record indicates as they have lost five conference games by two or fewer points. The Bobcats know they can’t take the Bisons lightly, and head coach Gil Cheung believes if his players can continue to play well in the offensive zone then they will have a chance to take a pair of games this weekend.
"We’ve had some success here when we execute the game plan for a whole 40 minutes," he said. "Of course there will be lapses here and there, but I think the offensive end of the ball is moving much better and we’re trusting each other a little more on the defensive end."