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Blazers Hold Off Rebels' Surge To Win Third Consecutive Conference Banner

It was another Women's Basketball Championship thriller on Saturday afternoon as CMU rebounded from a halftime deficit to raise their third conference banner in three years, 71-64 over the host Red River Rebels.

The top-ranked Blazers outscored Red River 23-16 in the opening 10 minutes, despite it taking the two nervous teams over two minutes to score the first basket of the MCAC final. Once the scoring started, however, CMU caught fire and established their first double-digit lead with 2:12 to go in the quarter when rookie guard Anna Pyne knocked down a three-ball to make the score 19-9.

The hosts buckled down on the defensive end in the second quarter, allowing their offensive game to blossom through veteran forward Lacey Finnbogason. Holding CMU to mere 8 points during the quarter, the Rebels pulled within one when Jodene Kowalchuk's lob 3-pointer at the end of the shot clock, dropped and Finnobogason followed it with a banked lay-up to take their first lead 28-27. Finnbogason would finish the game with 25 points to lead the Rebels while adding 7 rebounds and 5 assists to her statistical numbers. Red River ended the half on an 8-0 run and took a 36-31 lead to the locker room.

No one knows for sure what CMU head coach Joe Di Curzio told his team during their half time talk, but his instructions seemed to give the Blazers confidence and they came out ready to win. Moments into the half, Keirra Skolnik's running lay-up cut the Rebels' lead to one and then CMU regained the advantage 37-36 when Julia Schatkowsky stole the ball at mid-court and sent Shirliz Apiyo in alone for an easy basket.

After Finnbogason scored on back-to-back Rebels' possession to take back the lead. The scoring touch returned to the Blazers and they just couldn't miss. Jessica Marx-Houndle started the scoring by dropping a 13-foot jump shot and then Schatkowsky made good on back to back threes; all part of a 17-0 CMU run that would ultimately decide the outcome of the game. The Blazers' defense limited Red River to just 4 points in the third quarter and entered the fourth with their largest lead of 54-40.

The Rebels did what they could in the final 10 minutes to pressure CMU, but three key baskets from the Blazers cemented the championship win. First, after Kyla Clarke scored a triple for Red River to cut the lead to 6 and force a Blazers' timeout, Madison Wood would swish a 12-foot jump shot to restore CMU's 8-point lead. Then, after Finnbogason scored her own jump shot to have the CMU lead down to one possession, 62-59, Schatkowsky spun her defender on consecutive low post lay-ups off the window for a lead of 5 and then 7.

With 10.8 showing on the game clock and clinging to a lead of 5 points, Apiyo iced the game for CMU, knocking down two of two free throws to ensure the trophy and banner for the Blazers. Schatkowsky's 25 points, 14 rebounds, 4 steals and 5 assists statline was easily enough to earn the third-year forward Player of the Game honours.

With one banner in hand, CMU now turns their attention to next weekend when they are due to travel to Minnesota on Friday with sites set on their first NIAC Women's Basketball banner. Entering the season-ending tournament as the top-ranked team and boasting a season record of 12-2, CMU will await the winner of one women's quarterfinal between the fourth-ranked Turtle Mountain Mighty Mikinocks and the seventh-ranked Trinity Lions, in their Saturday afternoon semifinal. The 2020, NIAC Women's Basketball Championship final is scheduled for Sunday in Cass Lake.  



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