The RRC women’s basketball team will play CMU Saturday

By Jake Maurice

Alexis Garcia had a team-high 16 points in the Rebels 58-51 semi-final win over the Pilots. LINDSAY ROWAN

A year after a first round exit in the MCAC playoffs, the Rebels women’s basketball team put together a strong defensive effort to defeat the Providence University College Pilots 58-51 in this year’s semi-final.

The Rebels started slow out of the gate, unable to finish opportunities while the Pilots capitalized whenever they could. Their bench cheered loudly as PUC held a 20-10 lead at the end of the first quarter.

In the second quarter, guard Jodene Kowalchuk sank a three, the rebels first from beyond the arc, right away, and the Rebels looked better on every possession en route to a tied game at the half 30-30. 

Rebels head coach Jaenas Pangilinanbelieves his young group showed character and spirit, refusing to let the first quarter score get them down.

“They stayed with the plan, stayed with the process and didn’t change our game,” Pangilinan said.

Point Guard Alexis Garcia led the Rebels throughout the game, especially in the second half, where they grabbed the lead early and refused to let go. She believes team defence was the key to RRC’s win, but her individual play also earned her player of the game honours.

MCAC executive director, Bill Wedlake (right) awarded Alexis Garcia with the Rebels player of the game award following the match. LINDSAY ROWAN

“My number one attribute is being explosive and attacking the hoop,” Garcia said. “I just love doing that.”

That aggression led to a team leading 16 points along with four free throws, all generated by getting in close and rushing the basket. The Rebels two-way game had them poised for a win when the Pilots started a late push, pulling within three points with two minutes to go. 

Pangilinan said he calmed the team down and laid out the plan during a timeout.

“We told them there’s five possessions left, we got to get two blocks,” Pangilinan said, emphasizing the defense. “Take care of the ball, use the clock, get a good possession, get a shot.”

The Rebels followed the plan, held PUC back and drew three fouls late in the game. Garcia and lacey Finnbogason hit all six free throws to ice the game.

“We needed to prove we had good defense this game,” Garcia said.

Without the time out, it’s a distinct possibility the Pilots momentum could’ve carried them past the Rebels, but Pangilinan made sure they had no chance.

“At that point in the game you’re not doing X’s and O’s, you’re just trying to calm the troops down, get them to run what they’re supposed to run, be methodical in what we’re doing, and let the pieces fall where they will,” Pangilinan said.

The pieces fell in place for a big RRC win that sends the Rebels to the MCAC finals for a match with the top-ranked Canadian Mennonite University Blazers where they know they’ll need to bring their best.

“I know our offense is crisp … but our defense is on-and-off so we need to show our defense,” Garcia said.

The final is set for 1 p.m. on Saturday at RRC’s North Gym.