Brock Badgers edge Calgary Dinos in U Sports women’s quarterfinals

OTTAWA — The Brock Badgers held off a feisty Calgary team primed for an upset, edging the seventh-seeded Dinos 72-71 in the final moments of the second quarterfinal at the U Sports women’s basketball championship on Thursday.

The No. 2 Badgers, from St. Catharines, Ont., advance to Saturday’s semifinals to face the No. 6 Prince Edward Island Panthers, who beat the No. 3 Ryerson Rams 75-70 earlier Thursday.

Brock led by as many as eight in the first quarter and 14 in the second before the Dinos started to rally. Calgary ultimately outscored Brock in three of the four quarters, and were up by one with less than 30 seconds to go when fifth-year Badger and Ontario player of the year Melissa Tatti dropped in a layup to score the winning basket.

While his elated team celebrated, Badgers head coach Mike Rao seemed relieved it was over, saying his players did “just enough.”

“What stood out about the game? The final whistle. That’s what stood out,” Rao said.

“(Calgary) shot the ball extremely well and they boarded extremely well so we had those two things to combat. I thought offensively we didn’t move the ball as well as we could have.”

Brock’s Samantha Keltos had 24 points and five rebounds to earn the player-of-the-game award, but she said it was an honour she thinks she should share with Tatti, who ended with 17 points and seven rebounds. Fellow fifth-year Jessica Morris added 20 points.

Keltos said in the frenzied final moments Tatti didn’t know she had put the Badgers ahead when she scored the final layup.

“It was hilarious,” Keltos said.

Calgary head coach Damian Jennings said he was “clearly disappointed” by the outcome.

“We’ve got a style of basketball we didn’t quite execute the way we wanted to,” he said.

The Dinos struggled from the free-throw line, hitting just five of 12. But Calgary was far better on the boards, outrebounding Brock 42-29.

Calgary now moves to the consolation round.

Liene Stalidzane led Calgary with 18 points.

Calgary got the lone wild-card spot in the tournament. The Dinos were 18-2 in the regular season before falling to Alberta in the Canada West semis.

Brock won the Ontario title.

The Panthers, meanwhile, staged a fourth-quarter comeback to beat Ryerson in the opening quarterfinal.

Trailing by 10 after three quarters, the Panthers outscored the Toronto-based Rams 29-14 in the fourth to pull off the victory.

Panthers guard Jenna Mae Ellsworth, named national player of the year Wednesday, had a team-high 22 points, 13 rebounds and five assists. Reese Baxendale added 19 points and Lauren Rainford had 18 for the Panthers.

“We didn’t give up one minute there,” Ellsworth said following the win. “We were down in the third and we just kept battling.”

Ellsworth was named player of the game.

Panthers head coach Matt Gamblin said his team showed “resilience and toughness” to shut Ryerson down in PEI’s first appearance in the national championship in more than two decades.

“It comes down to who wants it more,” said Gamblin. “I think these guys decided if we lose we’re going to lose fighting and they fought hard.”

Baxendale went down with an injury late in the fourth quarter. Gamblin said he didn’t have an update yet on her condition.

Marin Scotten scored a game-high 31 points and added 10 rebounds for Ryerson, the runner-up in the Ontario conference this year.

PEI qualified for the Final 8 after winning the Atlantic conference title for the first time in 22 years.

The other Thursday quarterfinals feature No. 4 Laval Rouge et Or against the No. 5 Alberta Pandas, and the No. 1 Saskatchewan Huskies versus the No. 8 Carleton Ravens.

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