The opening game of the 2018-2019 Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC) Women's Basketball Championships featured defending champion St. Mary's University Lightning (13-8) vs. Lakeland College Rustlers (17-7).
The Rustlers, with an ACAC regular season record of 17 wins 7 losses, has one of the most balanced teams in post-secondary women's basketball.
Head coach Chris King He had eight players suit up for all 24 regular season tipoffs with six of them averaging more than 15 minutes per game on the hardwood.
He had an additional two players lace up the sneakers for 22 games. They too, averaged more than 15 minutes on the court.
No one on the team averaged more than 10 points per game.
With No. 12 Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association polling, would he go with equal time now that it is playoff time or would he change his strategy?
We would have to wait to see what would happen at the Syncrude Sport & Wellness Centre's Canadian Natural Gymnasium at the 1 p.m. tipoff.
The Lions, making a fifth straight appearance at provincials, had lost to graduation Montana Romeril a two-time conference ACAC All Star with CCAA All Canadian status in 2015-2016.
But they return with sparkplug and third-year guard Emily Wagner, who stopped popped and dropped 22.2 points per game this year.
The No. 1 shooting team in the league from beyond the three point line, the Lightning go 0-for-6 from downtown in opening 10 minutes. They are also forced into shot clock violations or last second shots.
Lakeland's Bilge Topaloglu uses her talents and 6-foot-4 frame by hauling in 2 rebounds, while getting 2 "unofficial" blocks in a few minutes on the hardwood.
First period ends Lakeland 16 St. Mary's 5.
Six Rustlers players on scoresheet.
Rustlers with confidence. Hitting the three pointers. Stealing the ball. Running the break.
Up 24-5 with only 3:27 gone in the second period, Lightning coach Steve Shoultz calls timeout.
The half ends Lakeland 40 St. Mary's 9.
Lightning 0-for-10 from 3-points range while Lakeland are 4-for-15.
Only Wagner and Kennedy Burgess on scoresheet for Lightning with 7 and 2 points respectively. Rustlers have...count em...nine players to score with Hailey Sommers at the top with 9 points.
Lightning Hannah Helton becomes only the third on her team to score with a right hand layup with less than a minute remaining in the third period.
At the end of three periods the Rustlers in total dominance 57-23 although they only outscored the ACAC defending champion 17-14 in the last 10 minutes.
Lightning came alive in the final 10 minutes by dropping the three and hustling on both ends of the court as they outscored the Rustlers 21-10.
Final score Lakeland 67 St. Mary's 44
Player of the Game for the Lakeland College Rustlers Bilge Topaloglu with 6 blocks 8 points 4 rebounds.
Lightning Player of the Game Emily Wagner with 19 points 6 rebounds.
Footnotes: Lightning's Abigail Griffiths was a competitive swimmer competing at the 2012 Alberta Summer Games
Lightning's Kennedy Burgess family tree includes plenty of hoops with aunts, uncles and grandparents playing university hoops in Saskatchewan