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Volume 90, Issue 91

Tuesday, March 18, 1997

Golden Mean


Golden season gets bronzed

©Andria Kury/Gazette
BISONS RULE THE WORLD. WELL, CANADA. Western's Angela Nobes [7] and Nadia Pezzolo [3] couldn't prevent Manitoba's Glenda Clark from shooting. 32 Western turnovers and 18 Bison steals might be a different story.

By Ian Ross

Gazette Staff

THUNDER BAY – Despite the frigid cold that held Thunder Bay prisoner on the weekend, the blazing emotions of the Western women's basketball team melted enough bronze to give each Mustang a third-place medal at the CIAU championships.

Although Western entered the tournament on a last-minute wild card ticket, the team, ranked sixth, knocked off two of the top three ranked teams in the tournament with confidence. The team clearly re-established itself as one of the best in the country – a title it held most of the season through an electronic ranking program.

After sinking the hopes and dreams of the third-ranked Victoria Vikes 78-72 in Friday's first-round match, the team was unable to take cover in time to avoid a Manitoba Bisons stampede, falling 84-67 in the semi-finals to the defending national champions.

The experienced Bisons squad jumped out to a substantial lead minutes after tip-off and appeared much more prepared for playoff competition, as they took advantage of 32 Western turnovers and 18 Bison steals.

"We weren't able to keep composed and did some things we talked about before the game wrong," said Western captain Angela Nobes. "These things caused us to break down."

Nobes, a second team all-Canadian credits the strength of the Manitoba bench to back up an already powerful starting lineup, which included two all-Canadian forwards.

One of them, Terri-Lee Johannesson, a three-time first-team member, was Manitoba's emotional sparkplug, racing past the Mustang defence for 28 points.

"Physically we had more talent then Western," Johannesson said. "That gave us a lot of confidence heading into the game."

"[Terri-Lee] is just one hell of a player and we simply do not match up well with her," Western head coach Bob Delaney confessed.

Although emotionally wounded by being knocked out of the gold medal match and a chance to shine on national television, the 'Stangs pushed most of their emotional baggage aside and came out ready to play against the University of Toronto Varsity Blues, ranked No. 1 in the tournament, for the bronze.

"Our goal [going into Sunday] was to win a medal for this program, which it hasn't seen in a long time," Western forward Nadia Pezzolo said.

In a reversal of fortunes from the previous day, Western clearly dominated the game, taking advantage of 18 Toronto turnovers and 13 'Stang steals to win 83-69 and capture the bronze medal.

The weekend was nearly a photocopy of the OWIAA championship weekend in which Western fell to York in the semi-finals, only to rebound with full force in the bronze medal matchup. The difference was that Toronto, instead of Laurentian, felt the wrath of an angered and determined Western squad.

"We came up against a very tough team in Manitoba and our confidence was still there," Nobes said. "So we came out [Sunday] and controlled the tempo, controlled the game this time."

The emotional bronze medal game featured technical fouls for both coaches who voiced their opposing views to the referees. In total, 53 fouls were called during the game, resulting in 46 baskets from the foul line.

"Whenever we play Toronto it's always an emotional game," Pezzolo stated, "Out of anyone in Ontario, they are probably our No. 1 rivals."

As the clock wound down in the final game of the season with Western holding a commanding lead, the Mustang bench was swept by a flood of emotions. For all of them it was a first taste of a Canadian championship medal, but for former captain Lori Bartolotta, it was the emotional conclusion of a successful five-year Western campaign.

"I've had a few tears now that I realize that this is it at the university level," Bartolotta said. "But we came away with a bronze medal and, although it's not gold, it's simply a big step for this program."

With Bartolotta gone and the future of captain Angela Nobes hanging on a teacher's college application, it appears the team will have big shoes to fill if they hope to build on this year's success. For now the team can celebrate knowing that they are among Canada's elite on the hardcourt.

To Contact The Sports Department: gazsport@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright © The Gazette 1997