DAVID LARKINS, Wesmen Athletics
Tanya McKay blushed when she saw the sign in her honour, and gasped when her team lifted her on its collective shoulders.
For a coach who isn't about the personal accolade, McKay couldn't avoid that Friday was her night.
McKay, the head coach of the Winnipeg Wesmen women's basketball team for the past 23 seasons, secured her 500th career win as a head coach as the Wesmen beat the UBC-Okanagan Heat 72-62 in their opening game of the 52nd annual Wesmen Classic.
The result put the Wesmen into the tournament semifinal Saturday at 6 p.m. against the Manitoba Bisons.
McKay, who played under Tom Kendall at Winnipeg and then went on to take over his program and hasn't looked back, was gifted a commemorative plaque to honour the occasion and her teammates swarmed her after the game to give her the love for a rare feat.
McKay is tops among active Canada West coaches in wins and stands third in U Sports in the category.
The Wesmen didn't make it easy for their coach, though. They came out of the gates slow, trailing 23-22, and after wiping the Heat out with a 21-5 second quarter, allowed UBCO to almost entirely eliminate what was once an 18-point lead. UBCO pulled to 66-62 down with 1:59 to go, but the Wesmen managed to keep the Heat off the scoreboard and advance to the tournament semifinal (6 p.m., Saturday).
Faith Hezekiah led the Wesmen with 28 points, 21 coming in the first half. Hezekiah also had 11 rebounds.
Jordan Korol led UBCO with 22 points and Vanessa Botteselle added 15.
In other action Friday, the Lakehead Thunderwolves got a lay-up from Leashja Grant on a sideline out-of-bounds as time expired to beat the Calgary Dinos 67-65. Grant got a back-screen set for her at the top of the key and peeled to the hoop where a lob pass was waiting for her to put away as the buzzer sounded. Grant had 10 points and 10 rebounds, and the Thunderwolves got 18 points from Nikki Ylagan, 13 from Karissa Kajorinne and 10 from Tiffany Reynolds.
Erin McIntosh led Calgary with 14, while Bobbi Jo Colburn and Kiki Knox had 11 each.
In the first game of the day, Regina handled Algoma 70-38. Christina McCusker led four Cougars in double figures with 18 points. Kyanna Giles had 17 and 10 rebounds, and Michaela Kleisinger and Faith Reid had 10 points each.
Thais Matte led Algoma with 13.
In the night's finale, the Manitoba Bisons had no trouble with the Brandon Bobcats, winning 88-44.
Nicole Konieczny had a game-high 16 points for Manitoba and Taylor Randall had 14. Keziah Brothers added 12 off the bench.
Brandon was led by Lauren Anderson, who had 11 points. Kendall Russell had 10 off the bench.
Lakehead and Regina will meet in an 8 p.m. semifinal Saturday.
Algoma and Calgary will play in a consolation semifinal at 2 p.m., with Brandon and UBCO going at 4 p.m.