Familiar Foes Clash Again In Women's Basketball Conference Championships
Few rivalries top the one that exists between the Red River Rebels and CMU Blazers in college basketball. This weekend the two programs meet again with the 2018 MCAC Women's Basketball Championship banner hanging in the balance on Saturday afternoon in Otterburne, Manitoba, where Providence University College hosts the pinnacle contest of the 2017-18 season.
Though boasting a nearly unblemished record in the MCAC at 7-1, the Blazers enter tomorrow's Championship Final as decided underdogs. In 2016 and 2017, CMU held the top record in the conference at the end of the regular season only to see the Rebels put together a superior Championship performance and take home the trophy.
Though their record in head to head action this season is 3-1 in favour of CMU, the Blazers loss to Red River came on home court in early January when the Rebels roster began to bolster in preparation for the MCAC and NIAC playoffs.
Where most college teams do their recruting in the off season prior to the start of the academic schedule, the Rebels have become experts at developing their roster midway through the regular season. Head Coach Jaenas Panigilan began the new semester in January by adding three key players; Two-way third year post Brita Enns-Kutcy, former MCAC Championship Most Valuable Player Raven Boulanger, and former conference Most Valuable Player Zera Lynn Panesa. The three combined to hand CMU thier first regular season loss of the 2017-18 season on January 5th. Later in January, the Rebels were able to add yet another former MCAC Most Vaulable Player in dynamic guard Susanna Namgung, strengthening the program to a squad that is arguably the best that the Rebels have ever put on the floor.
"They have a pretty potent and high-powered offense with the addition of these four players," said Blazers' head coach Joe Di Curzio, "they pose a big challenge for us defensively and we will have to put together a perfect game on both ends of the court to win this game."
Di Curzio will count on two rookies tomorrow who have big game experience. Sisler Spartans product Kiara Rongavilla is no stranger to Championship Finals. The 5'6 guard is averaging 9.86 points per game in her first college season and is a former AAAA Junior Varsity Girls Provincial MVP and familiar with winning championships at her high school. Rongavilla and fellow first year Julia Schatkowsky, met in the 2017 AAAA Girls Provincial Championships and have found great chemistry at CMU on the court, contributing to some of the Blazers best offensive numbers. Schatkowsky leads the MCAC in scoring with 12.1 points per game and is second to Enns-Kutcy in total rebounds.
The Rebels enter the Championships on the high of a two game winning streak as they finished the regular season with back to back wins over the Providence Pilots. After two losses to the undefeated Sisseton-Wahpeton Mustangs last weekend, CMU took only their third and fourth losses of the season but have lost 3 of their last four to NIAC opponents.
Fans can catch the thrilling finale to the 2017-18 Women's Basketball season in Otterburne on Saturday afternoon. The Blazers and Rebels tip-off at 4:00PM.