Dominant Dogs: U of S women’s b-ball wins 4th Canada West title in 5 seasons

Wilson Wong/ Gage Grassick (centre) was among the stars for the University of Saskatchewan women's basketball team in a 73-42 victory over sixth-seeded University of Alberta in the Canada West conference tournament final on Sunday, Feb. 25, 2024. The Huskies now head to the U Sports national Championship tournament, which runs March 7-10 in Edmonton.

by Dave Deibert

Saskatoon StarPhoenix

If the Canada West tournament weekend was any indication, the University of Saskatchewan women’s basketball squad is peaking at the perfect time.

For the ninth season out of the last 10, the Huskies are headed back to the U Sports national championship. For the fourth time in five seasons, they’ll be there as the best from Canada West. The top-seeded Huskies steamrolled the field at the CanWest championship in Abbotsford, B.C., capping their title run Sunday with a dominant 73-42 victory over sixth-seeded University of Alberta.

“I’m so impressed with our team,” head coach Lisa Thomaidis told following Sunday’s conference championship.

“They play with so much grit and heart. I thought the defensive presence and tenacity was the difference-maker.”

In Sunday’s final, the Pandas were held to just five points in the fourth quarter and barely cracked double-digits — 15, 11 and 11 — in the other three quarters. A major reason: the Huskies forced the Pandas into 30 turnovers.

On the other end of the floor, CanWest first-team all-star Gage Grassick scored 28 points on 10-for-17 shooting, and added five rebounds and five assists. Third-team all-star and conference player of the year last season Carly Ahlstrom added 16 points and eight rebounds. Together, the pair outscored the entire U of A roster.

While those two led the way, the Huskies got contributions up and down the roster. Second-team conference all-star Tea DeMong filled the stats sheet with five points, nine steals, seven rebounds and five assists. Ella Murphy Wiebe was held scoreless but cleaned the glass with seven rebounds. Logan Reider and Maya Flindall each scored six points off the bench.

Thomaidis felt the Huskies’ offence “at times” looked great on the weekend “but it is our defence that is our foundation and we build everything off that. Tea was outstanding, they all were. I’m just so happy for our players, they are so deserving of this.”

The 31-point victory wasn’t even their biggest margin of the weekend. The Huskies were more dominant in Saturday’s semi-final, where Ahlstrom scored 27 points in 31 minutes to lead her squad to an 84-50 win over the host and fourth-seeded University of the Fraser Valley.

Ahlstrom went 9-for-12 from the field, including 7-for-10 from three-point range, against UFV.

DeMong was also scorching from the field against UFV, going 7-for-9 including 3-for-5 from distance. She had 18 points, five rebounds and five assists. Grassick, against UFV, scored four points and hauled down eight rebounds, dished nine assists and swiped six steals.

“Carly was unbelievable — that’s what she can do,” Thomaidis said, calling Ahlstrom “a special player.”

In the Huskies’ quarter-final on Thursday, they knocked off University of British Columbia Okanagan 74-60 in a game that wasn’t as close as the score indicated.

With Thomaidis on the bench, the Huskies have won nine conference crowns: 2006, 2011, 2014, 2016, 2017, 2019, 2020, 2022 and 2024. (The 2020-21 campaign was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.) With the win on Sunday, the Huskies gained a measure of revenge against the Pandas, who eliminated them one season ago in the conference semi-final.

The Huskies under Thomaidis have won national titles in 2016 and 2020.

This year, the Huskies went 19-1 in the Canada West regular season, a perfect 6-0 in two pre-season tournament games and 3-0 during the conference championship weekend. The Huskies entered the weekend ranked No. 2 in Canada behind only Carleton University.

“You saw the No. 1 team in the country act like the No. 1 team in the country so credit to Saskatchewan, their coaching staff and athletes,” Alberta head coach Scott Edwards told

“They were clearly the best team in the tournament.”

Nationals Field Filling Out

Three teams from the Canada West tournament will compete at the U Sports national championship, which runs March 7-10 in Edmonton.

As the host team, the University of Alberta received a guaranteed berth. As a result, UFV heads to nationals thanks to a 62-41 win on Sunday over the University of Victoria Vikes. The two finalists from Canada West were to each receive a bid to nationals.

The No. 1-ranked Carleton Ravens host the No. 9-ranked University of Ottawa on Wednesday in their Ontario University Athletics conference semi-final, while Toronto Metropolitan travels to Queen’s, the third-ranked squad in U Sports, for the other OUA semi-final. The two OUA finalists each receive a spot at nationals.

Playoffs continue in Quebec, as well, with McGill visiting U Sports’ No. 4-ranked squad Laval, and Concordia travelling to Bishop’s. The conference winner advances to nationals.

In the Atlantic University Sports final, the No. 6-ranked St. Mary’s women repeated as champions to earn the AUS bid to nationals with a 64-49 win over University of New Brunswick.

In addition to the conference qualifiers and host squad, one at-large bid will be given to a wild card program that fills out the eight-team field.