It was the magical conclusion to their Huskie careers that the senior members of the women’s basketball team dreamed of. After an 18–2 regular season, followed by a Canada West championship on home court, the only thing left to win was the Bronze Baby trophy.
Using their size, skill, teamwork and sheer desire, the Huskies claimed their first Canadian Interuniversity Sport Championship in program history, with an 85–71 victory over the Ryerson University Rams in the final. They used the same recipe they had used all year, with fifth-years Laura Dally and Dalyce Emmerson coming up huge when it mattered most. They got contributions from their role players and rookie Sabine Dukate — a star in the making — powered the Huskies to a convincing victory.
In her final game in green and white, Dally was superb, knocking down shot after shot and finishing with 25 points in the biggest game of her career.
“I just tried to keep doing the same kind of thing, I focused on defence and took what their defence gave us and tried not to force anything,” Dally said. “I don’t know if it’s hit any of us yet, but it feels amazing. I’m so lucky to be a part of this group.”
Coming out of the gates a little slow and trailing after the first quarter, the Huskies found their stride in the second frame and took a 42–40 lead into the locker room. Head coach Lisa Thomaidis made some fantastic adjustments and the Dogs dominated in the second half, especially down the stretch when it mattered most. With just over seven minutes to play, the Huskies were clinging to a two-point lead. But from there, it was all Saskatchewan, as they closed out the game on a 16–4 run and proved they’re the number one team in the country.
Emmerson was named Tournament Most Valuable Player as she recorded a double-double in all three games — including a 25 point, 17 rebound effort in the semi-final. Emmerson also donned the uniform for the final time on Mar. 20, but she does so with nothing else to prove. She is a two-time CanWest champion, a two-time All-Canadian, the CanWest MVP in 2013 and now finally, a national champion.
“It’s so exhilarating and so exciting for us. It’s so surreal — it’s bittersweet because my career is done but it couldn’t have ended in a better way. Right now, I couldn’t be more happy about it,” Emmerson said. “Nothing was different. I knew it was the last kick at the can for us but I just wanted to bring composure and calmness to our team. For me, it was just a matter of let’s get this business done that we came here for. We weren’t there to joke around — we knew what we wanted and that’s what we went after.”
While it is sad that Dally, Emmerson and Kelsey Trulsrud have exhausted their CIS eligibility, they have most definitely left their mark on the program. Ending their careers on a high note and in the way they did it, made their coach proud.
“Our team was so dialed in this weekend, it was really special to watch. We knew Ryerson was going to be a tremendous challenge, but we felt we were deeper and we’d been here before, we had a little more experience,” Thomaidis said. “We have Dalyce, we have Laura, we have Sabine — all of them played their hearts out and I’m so proud of them to finish off their careers this way.”
Although the two senior captains were instrumental in the championship run, it’s the entire team that made this win possible. Trulsrud and Desarae Hogberg were defensive catalysts all year for the Huskies and the freshman Dukate stepped up on numerous occasions when the team needed her most.
That’s what it takes to be a championship team — not the solo efforts by two or three players, but an entire team coming together and supporting each other, assuming whatever role is required of them and playing for the logo on the front of the jersey. It’s not about the individual accolades or stats, but putting the team first and doing whatever it takes to win.
Emmerson says this is a special group that employs the “team-first” mentality and without the efforts of all 13 members, this wouldn’t have been possible.
“This is my second family. We spend two-plus hours every day together — watching film, practicing, shooting, lifting weights. You get to know each other pretty well and these girls know me better than anyone else,” Emmerson said. “That cohesion was huge and we all had so much trust on the floor all weekend and we knew if we all stuck together we could do it — that was the main factor in us winning yesterday.”
Having all been through their share of losses and heartbreak in their career, it’ll be nice to revel in this victory. Regardless of what happens for the rest of their lives, they’ll always be national champions and share that bond between them. With all their hard work this season culminating in one final game, it was an ending they had only dreamed of at the beginning of the season. But now, six months later, it’s a reality — and it’s one nobody will forget anytime soon.
Photos: Supplied / James West