By Sean Rooney on February 10, 2018.
Friday’s win might be remembered more for what the Medicine Hat College Rattlers lost.
A first-quarter injury to starting guard Kendell Kuntz took the energy right out of the building, but solid fourth-quarter defence helped the hosts earn a 66-63 win over the Briercrest Clippers.
“It really puts a damper on everything, it took us a while to get going,” said head coach Clayton Nielsen, whose team improved to 12-5. “You’ve got to pick yourself up and go. Our team did a really good job of that.”
Kuntz, who transferred back home after a standout couple years at SAIT, missed a season due to major knee surgery and has averaged 13.8 points per game. She’ll have to get an official diagnosis but Friday’s injury was the knee again, twisted and turned on a drive to the hoop.
In the wake of losing such a key component, the Rattlers were led by Kennedy Werre’s 25 points and 15 rebounds — the latter bringer her to within two of the magic 1,000 mark in her career.
Just as important, they bore down with key plays in the final six minutes. First, Katelyn Rozdeba made a steal that led to a three-point play from Sheridan Popenia with 5:33 remaining. Then with a minute left, Courtney Henry stole a ball and fed Werre for a layup. Both sequences came with the Clippers having cut the deficit to one.
“I was struggling with my outside shooting today so when that happens you have to focus on your defence, get inside and get layups,” said Popenia, among a handful of players in their last year with the team. “I just went hard. It was good to get the momentum going again.”
Briercrest, now 3-13 and eliminated from playoff contention, simply couldn’t get over the hump when opportunities presented themselves.
“We made some bad plays that killed us,” said coach Patrick Harvard. “Medicine Hat’s a good team, they outplayed us today.”
The teams rematch at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Snake Pit. But the obvious shadow over the weekend becomes Kuntz. Her teammates know how big of a loss it would be.
“I think it shook a few of us,” said Popenia. “She’s such a key player for us, it was tough to see that happen.
“But you’ve got to be mentally tough, play for her and step up your game that much more.”
Henry had 16 points and five assists, the only other Rattlers in double figures.
The speedy combo of Kai Wyatt (13 points, five rebounds) and Moriah Williams (12 points, eight rebounds) was complimented by centre Dionne Martin’s 15 points, six boards and four blocks for Briercrest.
In the men’s game, Medicine Hat blazed to a huge first-quarter lead and wound up 83-51 victors over the winless Clippers.
Stephen Jones had 16 points and eight rebounds, while Jon Sappleton came two assists away from a triple-double as the Rattlers improved to 13-4, temporarily tied for first in their division with SAIT and eight points clear of third place in the race for playoffs.
Sappleton’s line was 11 points, 13 rebounds and eight helpers.
Kyle Helsloot led Briercrest with 15 points and 15 boards.
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