It’s not everyday where a team’s strategy is to be down within a certain amount at halftime.
But that’s exactly what the plan was for the SFU women’s basketball team Saturday night when they played host to Northwest Nazarene, the number one ranked team in all of Division II women's basketball. The Clan managed to be down by eight at the half, just where head coach Bruce Langford wanted them.
“Our goal was to stay within 12 at the half” said Langford talking to BC Sports Hub. “That way they would go in confident.”
This strategy of lulling them into a false sense of security seemed to backfire by the time the buzzer sounded at the end of the third quarter. The Nighthawks were in the lead by nine, and you would think the number one team in the nation would have this one in the bag.
However, Langford and his team weren’t going to deviate from their strategy.
“We were down what we wanted” he said on what was discussed right before the start of the quarter. “We said try to be aggressive. Get to bonus before they do. Move the ball and we will get open shots.”
What followed was perhaps one of the most consequential quarters in the history of the program’s time in the NCAA. The Clan would go on a 9-2 run to take a one point lead via a Jessica Jones three pointer. They then scored seven straight points after that, on the back of five straight stops on the defensive end.
Northwest Nazarene would knot it up at 73 with 49 seconds left on the game clock. It looked this this one was going to overtime in front of a raucous white out crowd. On the next player, point guard Tayler Drynan drove baseline and kicked it out to Kendal Sands, who hit the corner three to give her team a 76-73 lead.
"I think our win against the number one ranked team in division 2 only further supports our belief in ourselves that we can hang with the best teams in the nation, and tells everyone else watching that the tradition of the SFU women’s basketball program is still alive and well" said senior Sophie Swant, who had 18 points and 11 rebounds in 37 minutes of action. "I truly believe we have the ability to shock people and do something special this year."
For Sands, it was a well deserved moment for her in her SFU career. Despite averaging only 18 minutes of action per game, her minutes have steadily increased over the past few games and has a field goal and three point percentage over 50%.
“I can honestly [say] that when I took that shot my mind went blank” she explained on the mindset My instincts seemed to just take over and I just shot it. Right when I caught it I knew I was shooting as the time on the shoot clock was winding down and right when it left my hands it just felt right.
Once I saw it go in, it all hit me, I looked straight at Tayler Drynan and we both yelled. There were millions of thoughts running through my head. It was a feeling that an athlete can’t quite explain, yet a feeling they’ll never forget.”
Despite notching a huge win, there’s still plenty to play for for SFU. The Clan have 10 more GNAC conference games left, and are just two games back of being first.
“The season is long” said Langford. “We have to keep getting better. We have shown improvement each week [and] we want that to grow.”
“This game wasn’t only just a massive upset over the number one ranked team in the nation, but it was a game that gave proof to ourselves on how much we are able to accomplish” said Sands on how this sets up the rest of the season.
“This team is a special one, and I think this was exactly the push we needed to finish the rest of our conference games. It puts us in a very solid place going into the second half of our scheduled games, yet at the end of the day the GNAC is an extremely tough league and anyone can beat anyone whenever.
I think we did a good job at proving that.”
Written by: Nick Bondi