The Lakeland Rustlers Women's Basketball team traveled to Calgary on the weekend to take part in the ACAC Women's Basketball Championships, where they finished fourth.
The Rustlers faced the Olds College Broncos Thursday afternoon in their opening game of the tournament. The Rustlers, who had faced the Broncos in exhibition play earlier in the year, defeated the Broncos 81-76. The Rustlers were led by 4th-year forward Anna Mbuyi with 14 points, ten rebounds, and two steals. First year guard Kaitlyn Tonita added 13 points, two rebounds, and three assists.
The Rustlers faced the St. Mary's Lightning in the semi-final Friday night. The Rustlers youth and lack of experience showed in the game, as the Lightning easily won 67-49. The Rustlers were led by Tonita with 12 points, four rebounds and an assist, while fifth year forward Shania Magnusson had 11 points, five rebounds, two blocks and an assist for the Rustlers. Mbuyi had another double-double for the Rustlers with 10 points and 13 rebounds.
The bronze-medal game Saturday had the Rustlers facing the host SAIT Trojans, who the Rustlers had faced twice in exhibition action earlier in the season. The Rustlers found themselves down early on but fought back to tie the game in the fourth quarter. Unfortunately, the Rustlers had expended too much energy in the comeback and lost the game 53-48. Tonita led the way for the Rustlers with 11 points, three rebounds, an assist and a steal. In what would be her last game in a Rustlers uniform, Magnusson added eight points, two rebounds, an assist, and a block.
Rustlers Head Coach Chris King shared his thoughts following the weekend. "We played well Thursday afternoon," King said. "We had been preparing for Olds all week and stuck to our game plan. Friday we didn't shoot the ball well and struggled against the pressure that St. Mary's applied. Then Saturday, we were close, the game was tied in the fourth, we just couldn't pull it out."
"We were a young team," King said, "lots of our girls are only in their first or second year. This year gave us the experience we need to help us going forward. All 12 girls we dressed played in every game, so everyone got experience on the court, and next year we will have more experience in these types of games."
"Kaitlyn (Tonita) and Anna (Mbuyi) were named tournament all-stars for us," King said. "Anna was aggressive on both sides of the ball for us and rebounded well. Kaitlyn struggled with her shot but found other ways to contribute."
The fourth place finish for the Rustlers is an improvement from last year in which they lost their two games at the championships. The Rustlers look to build on the success from this season next year as they continue to gain experience at the ACAC level.