After 20 regular season games, the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns basketball teams will have just a single contest to decide whether or not they continue in the Canada West playoff hunt.
But as the men prepare for the Regina Cougars and the women plan their game around the UNBC Timberwolves, the Horns are comforted in knowing they will go to battle on home court.
“Just the confidence that comes from the preparation of the week without travel,” said women’s head coach Dave Waknuk, “and then we know the kind of crowds we’ve been getting here in Lethbridge over the last couple of years.”
For Waknuk’s women, a meeting with the Timberwolves means facing two of the top three scorers in the conference.
Fifth-year Spanish international Maria Mongomo of UNBC led Canada West in points-per-game over the course of the regular season, dropping an average of more than 20 points a night.
Waknuk believes solid defence and an experienced veteran core will be key in getting through single-game playoff round, with the graduating trio of Kacie Bosch, Asnate Fomina and Katie Keith leading the way.
“What we have to do is kind of feed off that energy through the rest of the group,” said Waknuk.
“They’ll lead the way, they’ve led the way with their play on the court — with their character off the court — so we just need their confidence the same way coming into this weekend.”
For Keith, it’s a final chance to go on a deep run with girls she’s spent years playing alongside.
“It’s a one-game series, so kind of everything is on the line,” said Keith. “The three of us, we’re intense together, we build off each other… we have that chemistry going.”
The ladies won their final five regular season games, while the men also enter the post-season with momentum after rattling off six straight to finish the 20-game schedule.
“That consistency on the defensive end is a huge part of our success.”
McKinnon’s group is a self-proclaimed run-and-gun squad, with depth of scoring throughout the lineup.
“You know, southern Alberta kids have got a natural way to score,” laughed McKinnon. “So for us, playing defence is really the key moving forward.”
In the Cougars, the Horns will meet a team with a similar style to their own.
The two teams split a weekend set in Lethbridge just six weeks prior to the playoff matchup.
“What makes us hard to beat is we have a lot of guys who score consistently,” said Pronghorns forward Keanu Funa.
The Pronghorns women will face the Timberwolves at 6 p.m. Friday at home, with the men to follow at 8 p.m.
Winning would mean a trip to the Canada West quarterfinals next week, where the women could advance to face Calgary or Saskatoon, while the men could travel to Calgary or Edmonton.