Defence was the number one thing the #3 Red River College Rebels wanted to improve on entering the MCAC playoffs, Rebels guard Alexis Garcia said.
The Rebels did just that in their 58-51 win over the #2 Providence University College Pilots in the MCAC semi-final at Red River College’s North Gym on Thursday.
“We didn’t do too good on defence during the season, so we needed to prove we had really good defence this game,” said Garcia.
Garcia was a big part of the improvement on defence, being aggressive and playing the ball every chance, she got.
She was also a force on the offensive end of the court, scoring a team-high 16 points — highlighted by an aggressive drive-in layup leading to an and-one opportunity.
“My number one attribute is being explosive and attacking the hoop. I love doing that,” said Garcia.
Forward Hannah Van Schie led the charge for the Pilots with a game-high 17 points, while Natalya Reimer added another 10 points for Prov.
Lacey Finnbogason was another key player for the Rebels, scoring 15 points and forcing five steals in the match.
PUC had a strong showing early in the game, leading 20-10 after the first quarter. Momentum shifted with a Pilots’ 7-0 run, giving them a 15-6 advantage. Van Schie had seven of her 17 points in the quarter.
Momentum shifted in the second frame and the Rebels flipped the script with a 20-10 quarter win of their own, tying the game at 30 at halftime.
RRC carried momentum into the second half and played an impressive stretch on defence, holding the Pilots off the scoresheet for nearly seven minutes. The Rebels led 35-30, before Trinity Blair sank a three-point shot for the Pilots’ first points of the third quarter.
The Rebels regrouped and finished the third on an 8-2 run to lead 46-38.
Providence got the visiting crowd into the game in the fourth when Van Schie hit a long two and cut the lead to three points late in the game. With time trickling down, the Pilots had to send the Rebels to the free throw line, where Garcia and Finnbogason sank their combined six attempts to ice the game.
Van Schie and Garcia were named players of the game.
With the win, the Rebels will play the #1 Canadian Mennonite University Blazers in the MCAC final on Saturday at 1 p.m. at the RRC North Gym.
RRC star Kyla Clarke hit on just two of her 16 field goal attempts in the game and could be a player to watch in the final. Clarke is fifth in the league in points per game and will look to get back on track on Saturday.
Garcia said her team will need to do more of the same if they want to win their first league title since 2017.
“As a team we need to focus on defence, because I know our offence is crisp and we do really well on offence, but defence is always on and off.”