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U Sports Final 8 National Championship Semifinal
#3 Winnipeg 80, #7 Queen's 78

U Sports Final 8 National Championship Final - Sunday
#1 Ryerson vs #3 Winnipeg, 5:00 PM

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Wesmen to play for national title after gutting out win over Queen's

DAVID LARKINS, Wesmen Athletics

KINGSTON, Ont. — The Winnipeg Wesmen are going to play for a national championship.

Faith Hezekiah put a city on her back Saturday night and helped lead the Wesmen women's basketball team to an 80-78 U Sports Final 8 semifinal win over the Queen's Golden Gaels and into the national championship game Sunday night.

Hezekiah had 26 points, added 10 rebounds and was 5-for-9 from three in pacing the Wesmen to their first national championship game since 2003 when they settled for silver in Hamilton, Ont. [Ed. note: The Wesmen also played in the National Championship in 2005 in Winnipeg.]

In 2022, the Wesmen have returned to Ontario and took a similar route to that run 19 years ago. Just as they had to take down host McMaster (in a quarter-final) then, they had to run through an incredibly resilient Queen's squad and a boisterous crowd to earn their place in the big game.

And getting through the hosts this time didn't come without some gut-check moments. The Wesmen established their biggest lead of the game on a Hezekiah three that made it 62-51 with 3:36 to go in the third quarter. Hezekiah also hit a nerve-settling three from 25 feet out late in the game that quelled a Queen's run.

"I practise those shots every day in practice. I always take shots from the (volleyball) attack line," Hezekiah said of her confidence to hit from way out. "I'm a veteran on this team and we have to rise up and be there for our team. So I definitely take pride in that and I knew that we were going to have to take some tough shots."

The Gaels got the lead down to 67-61 to end the third and, after Robyn Boulanger hit a three to make it 70-61 with 7:33 to go in the fourth, the Gaels went on an 11-2 run to tie it at 72. The Gaels eventually went ahead briefly, 78-77, on two Laura Donovan free throws with 1:37 to go, setting the home crowd into a thundering uproar as Queen's took its first lead since 32-29 in the second quarter.

But Hezekiah, ever the steady hand, knocked down two free throws on the next trip to give the Wesmen the lead again. Bridget Mulholland missed a wide-open corner three with seven seconds left, Kyanna Giles grabbed a rebound, got fouled and made one of two on the other end, and Queen's went empty on its final possession.

Keylyn Filewich had 22 points and nine rebounds for the Wesmen, who will take on the OUA champion Ryerson Rams in Sunday's final (5 p.m. CT, Kyanna Giles added 13 points, seven rebounds and four assists and will prepare to play her sister Kyia, a starting guard for the Rams, for a national title.

"I thought we were going to pull away, but they made big shots, they attacked the basket and they kept in it, so kudos to them, but we fought back and got the win," Kyanna Giles said.

Boulanger finished with 13 points.

Donovan led the Gaels with 20 points, Sophie De goede had 14 points and 12 rebounds, and Emma Ritcey dropped 19.  

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