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Wesmen shock T-Birds in playoff play-in game

Wesmen guard Farrah Castillo dribbles against pressure during Winnipeg's 67-64 playoff victory over the UBC Thunderbirds, Saturday, February 9, 2019 in Vancouver. (Rich Lam/UBC Athletics)
Wesmen guard Farrah Castillo dribbles against pressure during Winnipeg's 67-64 playoff victory over the UBC Thunderbirds, Saturday, February 9, 2019 in Vancouver. (Rich Lam/UBC Athletics)

The Winnipeg Wesmen pulled off the upset of the season Saturday and are moving on in the Canada West conference playoffs.

Lena Wenke posted a season-high for points and Farrah Castillo had her second-highest scoring output in a Wesmen uniform as 12-seeded Winnipeg stunned the fifth-seeded UBC Thunderbirds 67-64 in a first-round Canada West playoff game in Vancouver.

The Wesmen now move on to a best-of-three quarter-final series in Saskatoon against the No. 1-seeded Saskatchewan Huskies. That series starts Thursday. 

"I'm sure nobody expected that but us," Wesmen head coach Tanya McKay said. "You know, we've steadily gotten better all season and everybody says they only have Faith Hezekiah, she's our only player, well we've got some hidden gems and those gems came to play today."
 
Castillo had a team-high 20 points — her most since she dropped 24 in an October loss to Victoria — and Wenke added 16 as the Wesmen found secondary scoring to complement conference leading scorer Faith Hezekiah.

Hezekiah had 12 points and 11 rebounds — her 27th straight conference or playoff game in double-digit scoring — but was held scoreless in the second half. 

It was Hezekiah's 13th double-double of the season.

The Wesmen led virtually the entire first quarter and a Robyn Boulanger three with 16 seconds left in the frame sent them into the break with a 23-16 lead. 

Winnipeg led by as many as nine in the second quarter and Castillo's step-back jumper in the lane gave the Wesmen a 41-33 edge at half.

After Wenke put the Wesmen up nine again 3:47 into in the third quarter, UBC went on a 10-0 run, holding the Wesmen scoreless for the next 2:19 to take a 47-46 lead. 

The Wesmen survived another offensive drought to start the fourth quarter. Leading 55-52, the Wesmen went scoreless for the next 3:29 as UBC went up 59-55. 

Winnipeg, however, responded immediately with a run of its own keyed by a Castillo three that set the Wesmen off on a 10-0 run that ended with a Deb Nkiasi three that put the Wesmen back in front 65-59 with 2:31 to go. The Wesmen held UBC without a point for a stretch of 5:52 of the fourth. 

A pair of Maddison Penn free throws pulled the T-Birds to 65-64 down with 57 seconds left, but Wenke made one free throw a couple of possessions later and Castillo got a steal on the next trip down before getting fouled. She made one of two with five seconds left and the Wesmen hung on. 

"I think obviously we didn't play the way we had anticipated or wanted to," UBC head coach Deb Huband said. "I think we were a little bit overwhelmed, maybe by the pressure of the moment. There were a lot of uncharacteristic things that happened on the floor today, but credit Winnipeg. I think they played with bravery and courage and with nothing to lose and they're very deserving of the win."

Penn had 21 points and 13 rebounds to lead UBC, which finished the season with a 14-6 record and six more wins than the Wesmen. Keylyn Filewich added 16 points and 17 rebounds.

—#REPTHEW—