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Wesmen finish strong to outlast Timberwolves

Anna Kernaghan hit a clutch three-pointer with 1:41 on the clock to break open a tie game and lift the University of Winnipeg Wesmen to a 72-65 win over the University of Northern British Columbia Timberwolves in women’s basketball at the Charles Jago Northern Sport Centre on Friday.

A strong stretch spanning the late third and early fourth quarter allowed the Timberwolves to erase what was a 13-point Winnipeg lead to take a nine-point lead of their own. But Winnipeg battled back to tie it and Kernaghan gave her team the lead for good with her fourth three-pointer of the evening.

“They fought hard and we were down, but I think we did a really good job staying composed and playing together as a team,” Kernaghan said after the game.

The Timberwolves, whose shooting was red-hot for most of the second half, were unable to connect down the stretch. The loss drops UNBC to 4-9 on the year. The Wesmen improve to 10-3.

“It was a competitive finish, but they were better than us,” UNBC guard Alina Shakirova said. “It’s a big learning experience. That’s a very good team and it means a lot to play with them at that level, but the end was a good learning experience for our younger players.”

Sveta Boykova scored a team-high 18 points for the Timberwolves and pulled down a game-high 16 rebounds. Shakirova added 17 points and Laura Garmendia Garcia chipped in with 14.

Kyanna Giles had a game-high 26 points for Winnipeg to go along with her nine steals, while Kernaghan added 19 points.

Kernaghan said her team needed to regroup in the fourth quarter after seeing their lead slip away.

“You’re confident, you’re up a bit and they hit shot after shot and we were missing,” she said. “It takes a lot of drive to get back and say, ‘we have to do this and we can’t give up.’ ”

After trailing at halftime, the Timberwolves used their size to their advantage early in the second half. They outscored Winnipeg 21-11 in the third quarter, thanks in large part to a 17-6 rebound advantage. Boykova and Garcia led the charge in the paint and Shakirova hit a three-pointer in the final minute as UNBC took a 50-48 lead heading into the final quarter.They grew the advantage to 57-48 early in the fourth, before Winnipeg began their comeback.

“We need to say focused the whole game, we need to come out with a lot of energy,” Shakirova said of the keys to Saturday’s rematch. “We’re pretty close to where we want to be.”

The Timberwolves jumped out to a fast lead, Jenna Korolek scoring just four seconds into the game as the Timberwolves converted the tip-off into quick points. The home side started on a 7-0 run, Winnipeg came storming back, generating steals to stymie the Timberwolves attack. The visitors used an 11-point run at the end of the quarter to build a 22-14 advantage.

Giles and Kernaghan combined for all of Winnipeg’s first 25 points, Giles scoring 14 of them and Kernaghan adding 11, including hitting each of her first three, three-point attempts.

The second quarter was a back-and-forth battle, with UNBC cutting the lead to four midway through the period before the Wesmen extended it back to eight to take a 37-29 lead into the half.

The two teams return to the court on Saturday, same time, same place. Tip-off is set for 5 p.m. on Pride Day.

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