Hoop Pandas finish season on a strong note

The Pandas basketball team left CIS nationals empty handed last weekend.

The Pandas lost their opening game of Nationals in Quebec City on Thursday by a score of 70-63 to their Canada West rivals, the Saskatchewan Huskies. With the loss, the Pandas were immediately eliminated from medal contention and were placed in the consolation bracket.

Despite the loss, head coach Scott Edwards was proud of how his team played.

“It was a heck of a game, one that was definitely national championship quality, ” Edwards said. “We were sad to lose, but it was fun to be a part of it.”

The Pandas were unable to withstand a first quarter barrage from the Huskies, resulting in them heading into the second quarter already down by seven points.

“(They) came out of the gate and shot the ball extremely well in the first quarter, and the game was sort of lost in that stretch,” Edwards said. “We just weren’t able to adjust to a couple of their hot shooters and that kind of put us on our heels.”

Despite their bench outscoring the Huskies 22-8, the Pandas could not erase the seven-point deficit, resulting in their eventual demise.

After their loss to the Huskies, the Pandas were able to go undefeated in the consolation round, beating the Laval Rouge et Or by a score of 62-50, and the Ryerson Rams 73-65.

Edwards said that he tried to keep the focus internal going into the consolation round.

“What we talked to the athletes about was just to enjoy the experience and make the games about us, and not the other team,” he said. “(We tried to) just to enjoy the experience of playing together as a team.”

Edwards further emphasized further emphasized the internal focus when talking about preparing his team.

“I just asked them to go out there and play hard, and enjoy the experience,” he said. “If we win, that’s great, but more importantly just have fun playing together as a team for the last couple of games.”

The Pandas go home with a fifth-place finish for a second straight year, something Edwards was proud of his team for accomplishing, despite the opening game loss.

“It was disappointing not to move forward, but I’m proud of our girls,” he said. “Knowing we tried our best and lost to a team that just played better, we’ll be able to live with that.”

Emotions were high after the last game against Ryerson, as five Pandas were in their fifth and final year of eligibility.

“Certainly things were very emotional when the game ended,” Edwards said. “The whole experience was a nice wrap up for those five athletes that are graduating this year, they’ve given so much to the program over the course of their careers.”

Edwards remained positive heading into the off-season, and maintained that the Pandas will enter next season with the same goals as they did this year — winning nationals.

“The expectations remain the same every year, we expect to go to nationals every year, and we expect to compete every year, so we’re looking forward to the future.”

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