Home Loss To Providence Sets Up Unusual MCAC Tie-break Possibilities
After a late scoring run saw CMU leave Providence with an 11-point win on Friday night, the Blazers went ice cold in the fourth quarter on Saturday, watching an 28-20 halftime lead slip away as the Pilots evened the season series at one win a-piece. The visitors outscored CMU 32-20 over the final twenty minutes, setting up what could be a complicated three-way tie-breaker in both the MCAC playoffs and the forthcoming NIAC seedings later this month.
Friday's win required everything the Blazers could muster, including a full 40-minutes from 2019 NIAC women's basketball Most Valuable Player, Julia Schatkowsky. While on the floor, the 6'1 forward amassed 28 points and 10 rebounds - nearly half the Blazers offensive production - but the toll of those hard minutes was felt twenty-four hours later when Schatkowsky was forced out of the game for 8 of the final 10 critical minutes with exhausted leg muscles.
CMU produced a season-low 5 points in the final quarter while Providence's Natalya Reimer and Megan Wiebe rallied the visitors' offence to a 52-48 win on the back of a second half that saw the Pilots shoot nearly 40% from the field. Wiebe would finish the game with 11 points while Reimer scored 3 key baskets down the stretch for 7 points and collected a game-high 10 rebounds.
Billed to be the weekend that would decide the first-place team in both the MCAC and NIAC women's basketball divisions, a series split has made everything incredibly complicated in the playoff shuffle. Entering action, both CMU and Providence were locked at the top of the standings with records of 9-1 while Manitoba's other NIAC team, Red River College, sat just below the frontrunners at 8-2. The Pilots and Blazers split results combined with two Rebels wins via forfeit against the Sisseton Mustangs last weekend, have all three Manitoba teams even at the top, equal at 10-2, with one weekend of conference action remaining.
Should the Manitoba rivals all compete their season with two more wins, the NIAC tiebreak rules would take affect. The first article to break ties resides in head-to-head action and in this case, CMU, Providence and Red River, all share the same record of 1-1 against each other during the regular season. The Blazers' lone conference loss prior to the Christmas break came November 29th against the Rebels but CMU rebounded in early January with a comfortable win at the Loewen Athletic Centre. The Pilots versus Rebels series followed the same script with both teams taking a win and a loss.
With things still even, attention turns to points "for" and "against" in head-to-head action, and this lifts the Blazers. CMU's advantage in their series with the Pilots has the Blazers ahead by combined scores of plus-7. In action versus the Rebels, despite lossing by 14 points in their first meeting, CMU leads the series by plus-11 thanks to January's critical 75-52 win.
The final test for the Blazers comes in Belcourt this Saturday and Sunday where CMU faces the Turtle Mountain Mighty Mikinocks with the opportunity to decide their own playoff fate. Whoever winds up on top, will have their ticket stamped for an MCAC final berth on February 15th while the remaining two teams will battle it out in the provincial conference semfinals on February 13th. The NIAC championship tournament is slated for February 21-22 in Cass Lake and Bemidji, Minnesota.