Sweet three-peat for Lancers
Hoops dynasty sealed with third straight national title
The game over, the championship captured yet again, Windsor Lancers guard Miah Langlois stopped amidst the celebration and figuratively took a step back.
She wanted to take in the pandemonium that surrounded her and file it away forever within the annals of her memory bank.
"I'm just looking around absorbing the atmosphere, and observing the excitement," Langlois said, moments after Windsor had completed a 66-57 victory over the Regina Cougars and collected its third straight Bronze Baby Trophy as CIS women's basketball champions. "You've got to savour those moments.
"You don't get these opportunities too many times in life."
In most places, that's true.
In Windsor, it's becoming an annual rite of passage.
"It is actually so hard to believe," Lancers guard Korissa Williams said. "The game was so exciting through all four quarters."
As easy as one-two-three? No, the Lancers won't go there.
In fact, this might have proven to be the toughest of their three triumphs.
Windsor's first national crown was won on home court at the St. Denis Centre, a decisive 63-49 verdict over the Saskatchewan Huskies. Last year in Calgary the Lancers drubbed the UBC Thunderbirds 69-53.
"These three games we just played in this tournament were the hardest games," Williams said. "They were physically and mentally the hardest games we've ever played."
As they readied to take the floor Sunday, the Lancers knew they were headed out into the middle of a hornet's nest.
Everywhere they looked around Regina's Centre for Kinesiology, Health & Sport the place was filled to the rafters with raucous fans decked out in Cougar green.
"It was crazy the atmosphere here," Williams said. "Regina has amazing fans, but we had to zone it out and do what we needed to do. Nothing personal, but it's business."
This is where the Lancers' experience came to the fore.
Windsor coach Chantal Vallee pointed to last year's semifinal, when they tangled with the host Dinos, as perfect preparation for Sunday's madhouse.
"Looking back at last year, we couldn't have had a better experience to prepare us for this year," she said. "We were fortunate that we played Calgary in a semifinal in Calgary at the national championship and faced a hostile crowd there.
"We came in and we knew it was going to be hostile. They can sit 3,000 people in here and we had maybe about a dozen Lancer fans."
Vallee delivered a straightforward message to her veteran squad in the dressing room.
"I told the players before the game, 'Listen, there's two things here,'" Vallee said. "First of all, we're the only people in this gym that have won a national championship. We know the way. Let the experience lead the way.'
"About the crowd, I said, 'When it's thunder and lightning because they make a shot, you've got to focus on your-self. You can't let that be an emotional disturbance for you. That's what it's going to be, we expect it, now let's take care of business.'"
The lead changed hands five times during the first quarter, but a Laura Mullins three-point field goal on the last shot of the period gave Windsor a 17-16 advantage. It was a lead the Lancers, 26-0 in regular-season and playoff games this season, would not relinquish.
The turning point came in the second quarter when both post players - Windsor's Jessica Clemencon, a tournament all-star and Regina's Brittany Read, who'd pulled down 29 rebounds in the Cougars' semi-final victory over Saint Mary's - went to their respective benches in foul trouble.
While Regina floundered without its big presence, Windsor's speedy guards - Mullins, Langlois, Williams and Bojana Kovacevic - stepped up and put together an 11-0 run.
By halftime, Windsor led 3425, an advantage the Lancers had extended to 50-36 by the conclusion of the third quarter.
"We played an A game," Vallee said.
"We followed a great game-plan defensively.
"We were able to score some important baskets - Mullins with good threes, Miah with some great buckets, Jessica inside, Korissa driving - all things we had addressed in our gameplan, but the girls had to go out and execute it.
"Experience led us yes, but the players executed what we asked them to do and that's very important."
Williams, who scored 13 points, was named tournament MVP.
"It's a great feeling, but an award like this you have to dedicate to the team, because the team is the motor," Williams said. "They're the reason we're here. They're the reason I'm here.
"They're the reason we win, because we play as a team."
Langlois garnered player-of-the-game honours after pouring in a game-high 18 points. Mullins (13) and Clemencon (11) also hit double figures, while Clemencon led all rebounders with 11.
Windsor joined Winnipeg (1993-95), Victoria (1980-82) and Laurentian (1975-79) as the only schools to win at least three Bronze Baby Trophies in succession, and Vallee gave credit for that run to her players.
"As a coach, the job is to lead the girls, but they carry us to the summit," Vallee said.
"I have a fantastic coaching staff that prepares the team well and quite frankly, we were able to savour the moment for the entire 40 minutes."
Even the always-working Vallee was willing to put the drive for four on hold for a bit to enjoy the rare company that the Lancers now keep.
"Right now we just want to take time to enjoy this, to appreciate this," she said. "This is very special. Only three other coaches in Canada have been able to win three in a row.
"As a staff and a team, we are part of something very special. I'm never one to celebrate much, but I think now maybe I'll take time to savour and celebrate a little bit."
A dynasty in the making?
No. Not anymore.
Windsor is officially a dynasty, plain and simple.
You can bronze that, baby.
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