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Sabine Dukate stepped onto the University of Saskatchewan campus in Saskatoon five years ago and guided the program to its first-ever national championship as the starting point guard.
It was all a bit of a blur.
Dukate was a relative newcomer to Canada, having grown up and played high school basketball in Latvia. Her impact was immediate, but she didn’t fully process it until later.
“In my first year, everything was kind of blank for me,” she said Sunday evening, after the Huskies won their second national title in an 82-64 blowout over the Brock Badgers.
“I didn’t know how much work and effort it takes to win a national championship, and I feel like now I know how much it takes,” she added.
“And it definitely feels better now, winning it.”
Dukate showed out in the final game of her university career. Now a fifth-year senior, she led all scorers with 24 points — all from three-point range — on eight-for-15 shooting.
Huskies forward Summer Maskiewich had 20 points, nine rebounds and three assists in the victory, shouldering most of the remaining scoring load.
“We played our best basketball at the right time, and we really peaked at this tournament,” said Huskies head coach Lisa Thomaidis.
“I thought we played really unselfish, quality basketball. It was fun to watch them and (I’m) just so proud of what they did this year and what they did this weekend.”
Brock made several clutch shots and battled hard to the end, but couldn’t match the Huskies blow-for-blow.
Saskatchewan controlled the pace for much of the game, pushing hard on offence and playing tenacious defence. In the end, it was simply too much.
Badgers point guard Melissa Tatti was a revelation at times, scoring 14 points, six rebounds and four assists. Centre Samantha Keltos added 21 points in the loss.
“We really had to defend the three-point line,” said Thomaidis. “They’ve been shooting the ball so well. They distribute and they penetrate and kick.
“And for us, we had good preparation. The teams that we played leading into this game, I thought we had to do that.”
Dukate struggled with her shot early. There was no immediate sense she would catch fire. “But I just kept shooting,” she said.
“Coach said we had to take our shots, and that’s something I do. That’s my job on the team — to shoot threes. So I took a shot when they gave me one.”
As Dukate leaves the University of Saskatchewan, the program is as good as it’s ever been.
“It’s amazing to see,” said her coach, Lisa Thomaidis. “We’re a city … in the middle of the prairies.
“Who would guess that we could be a basketball hotbed? To have this kind of success really says a lot, and we think it’s pretty awesome that we have something special there.”