Aden Bowman edges Carlton in Hoopla 5A semis

Aden Bowman Bears post Ashley Desousa-Martins (15) jockeys for position in her zone while Carlton Crusaders post Nyariak Monyrew calls for a pass during Hoopla 5A action from Prince Albert on March 23, 2018. -- Evan Radford/Daily Herald

The Saskatoon Aden Bowman Bears were due and they were rewarded, according to their head coach.

The 5A girls basketball team ground out a tight 65-60 win over the Prince Albert Carlton Crusaders on Friday to earn a spot in the Hoopla gold medal game for a chance at a provincial title.

“We’ve matched up with Carlton a few times this season, and it’s always been a super competitive, physical game. But Carlton’s always come out on top,” Bears coach Nicole Poier said. “We were due. My girls were ready, and they wanted this pretty bad. I’m pretty happy for them.”

Most recently, the Crusaders won their home tournament on March 3 by beating the Bears in the final game by a score of 55-36.

Coming into Friday’s semifinal, Poier said her team wanted to improve its mental toughness. “I think we went into that (previous) game a little bit hesitant. And this game, we had nothing to lose, and they were just ready to go at it.”

Throughout the game, neither side led by more than eight points at any point during the game.

Both teams opened the game by playing tight, disciplined basketball. By halftime, Aden Bowman was up 32-21 on Carlton.

Crusaders head coach Jenn Freguson also praised her team for its drive and its focus on going for the win. “We didn’t lose this game; they won it. I’m proud of our girls.”

Carlton Crusaders point guard Payton Izsak (10) dribbles the ball up court while Aden Bowman Bears player Haley Poier (7) defends against her during Hoopla 5A action from Prince Albert on March 23, 2018. — Evan Radford/Daily Herald

The Bears began to pull away in the third quarter, but the Crusaders kept pace with them, ensuring that the Saskatoon team couldn’t move beyond a one-point lead; the score was 44-43 for the Bears after three quarters.

But it was in that quarter that Ferguson’s team got away from driving the basket as much it had in the first half, she said. “We tried to get them to go back to it, and it took them a little while. (The Bears) made some great defensive plays, too, and stole the ball as we were driving. So that makes us a little more tentative to try again.”

Aden Bowman’s sticky defence also made it difficult for Carlton to go on any point-scoring streaks; when one Crusader managed a hard bucket or a deep three-ball, the Bears stifled any follow-up points from their opponents.

A driving force throughout the game was the play of Bears post Ashley Desousa-Martins. Like Crusaders guard Gage Grassick, Desousa-Martins used her speed and vision to create turnovers for quick-break plays for her team.

She also had a nose for rebounds and driving the basket throughout the game. Part of that was due to her team studying game film from that loss to Carlton earlier in the month, she said.

Based on the film, the grade 12 student said the plan was to “have less turnovers, score more and go to the rim, like we did tonight.” She finished the game with 16 points.

The Crusaders continued to stay in it, keeping the score close until the fourth quarter’s final two minutes, when the Bears pulled away for the win.

Despite the loss, Carlton co-captain Mackenzie Emmerson was optimistic about her team’s play. “They just came out on top. A few shots of ours didn’t fall and a few shots of theirs did, but i’m not not disappointed in our girls. We gave it our all.”

“I’m proud of the way we held ourselves together, stayed composed and stuck to our game plan,” she said.

Carlton now prepares for the bronze medal game, where it will play the Centennial Charges on Saturday afternoon at 3 p.m. at St. Mary high school. The Charges lost their semifinal game on Friday night to the Regina Leboldus Golden Suns 82-63.

The Bears will play the Golden Suns for the 5A title on Saturday at 5 p.m. at Carlton high school’s CPAC gym.