REGINA – University of Saskatchewan guard Libby Epoch hit a three with 1:10 left on the clock to seal a 74-71 Huskies win over provincial rival the University of Regina Cougars in a U SPORTS women's basketball Final 8 semifinal at the Centre for Kinesiology, Health and Sport.
With the win, the Huskies return to the national final for the second time in three seasons, after winning 2015-16. Saskatchewan will meet the Carleton Ravens who defeated the reigning champion McGill Martlets 46-44 earlier in the day.
Tied at 55 entering the final 10 minutes, neither team could grow a lead larger than three points until fifth-year Megan Lindquist and Epoch hit the three-point shots late in the game for a 71-68 lead. Regina's fifth-year guard Sara Hubenig hit a three for the Cougars from the top of the arc with 30 seconds left, but Regina couldn't get another shot off to tie the game.
The back-and-forth fourth quarter was indicative of a game that saw 23 lead changes.
Turnovers looked to be a problem for the Huskies. The Cougars were able to score 25 points from the 26 Saskatchewan turnovers. But the Huskies countered the problem going 50% from the arc. The Huskies shot at 41.8% in the game, while the Cougars shot 37.3%. Saskatchewan won the battle on the boards securing 49. Regina nabbed 29.
"It was our three-point shooting, that was huge for us," said Huskies' head coach Lisa Thomaidis. "We've been struggling the last few weeks. We led the country in three-point shooting percentage and then when we went in to playoffs, we just went ice cold. It was great timing for it to come back. I thought we were going to give it away with our turnovers we just couldn't secure the ball and Regina's pressure really got to us. We managed to sneak it out."
Dukate led the Huskies with 20 points – 15 of those from the three-point line. Lindquist added another 15 points and seven rebounds, while Epoch tallied 13 points.
Kyanna Giles led the Cougars in the game with 27 points, followed by Kyia Giles with 14 and Hubenig with 13. Giles led Regina on the boards with six rebounds.
Regina led 24-23 after the first quarter. The provincial rivals kept the frame tight until the Cougars were able to build a seven-point lead. Saskatchewan's strong three-point shooting kept them in the quarter hitting 7-of-11 shots from the arc.
The Huskies continued the three point shooting in the second quarter adding three more in the frame and led 40-37 at halftime.
Saskatchewan held the lead in the third quarter and had as much as an eight-point lead at one point. Regina went on an 9-0 run to take a 55-54 lead with just over a minute left in the third. Dukate tied the game with 36 seconds left hitting a shot at the line. The teams were tied 55-55 at the end of the quarter.
Tipoff on the U SPORTS final is at 5:30 p.m. (CST) on Sportsnet 360 or Sportsnet Now. Regina meets McGill in the bronze medal game at 2:30 p.m. on USPORTS.live.