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ABBOTSFORD, B.C. – A series of big plays at crunch time lifted the Trinity Western Spartans to a 57-51 win over the University of the Fraser Valley Cascades in Canada West women's basketball action Friday.

For a span of nearly four minutes in the fourth quarter, just a single point separated the two local rivals.

But TWU's Sarah Buckingham (Surrey, B.C.) hit a huge corner triple with 1:43 left in regulation to give the Spartans a four-point cushion, and they fended off the hosts to claim victory at the Envision Financial Athletic Centre.

The win improves the Spartans record to 11-8 and keeps their hopes of hosting the opening round of the playoffs alive. The Cascades dropped to 10-9. The teams wrap up the home-and-home set on Saturday evening at the Langley Events Centre (5 p.m.).

Fifth-year Spartan Tessa Ratzlaff (Abbotsford), who was playing her final regular season game in her hometown, paced the Spartans with 18 points and nine rebounds, while Kianna Wiens (Regina) had 11 points and Buckingham had 10.

Taylor Claggett finished with a team-best 17 points for the Cascades. Kate Head scored eight, and Amanda Thompson pulled down nine rebounds.

After a flurry of early scoring, the two teams' defences settled in and dominated the rest of the proceedings. Few personal fouls were whistled (just 13 for UFV and 10 for TWU), but the Cascades and Spartans both soundly executed their game plans at the defensive end. TWU led 16-11 at the end of the first quarter, with UFV closing the gap to 26-25 at the break.

The Spartans pieced together an 8-0 run midway through the third quarter, capped by Ratzlaff's and-one layup, to take a 41-32 lead. UFV clawed their way back into it slowly but surely, grabbing a 48-47 lead with 3:47 left in regulation.

However, the Cascades' offence went quiet at that point. A jumper by TWU's Kianna Wiens (Regina) restored the Spartans lead, and Buckingham's corner three gave them some breathing room.

The Cascades limited the Spartans to 38.6 per cent shooting from the field, but UFV hit just 31.3 per cent from the field, including 6-of-25 from downtown.

Cheryl Jean-Paul – TWU Head Coach
"Tonight's game was a great battle and a needed team response to some of the adversity we've faced this semester. It's so important for us to see plays through on our defensive rotations and our half-court execution. It was nice to see us defend the boards well and hit the key shots when we needed a boost. Tomorrow will be another tough battle and we have to be ready for their response back.

"It could have gone either way for either team. We've had some heartbreakers this semester, and I think we're starting to learn from our experience instead of repeating the same patterns. We tried to make sure our core group was a little bit fresher going into that fourth quarter, and we were able to get some key subs in to make sure they were ready to make good decisions. We've been caught with that in the past, where they were just so fatigued that they couldn't make those key plays – they just wanted to get the ball out of their hands. I thought that we did a much better job of managing our roster . . . that equates to better shot selection, better finishes, better defensive rotations and better rebounds."

• Ratzlaff is now 28th in Canada West in all-time regular season scoring with 1,363 points.
• Including the playoffs, Ratzlaff has a TWU all-time record 1,421 career points, while Jessie Brown (Langley, B.C.) has 1,338 career points.
• Brown enters the final regular season game of her career with 266 made 3-pointers, which has her second all-time in Canada West history. She is 13 3-pointers back of career-leader Ashley Hill who finished at 279.
• TWU swept UFV in their season series last year, winning 66-57 and 65-50.
• The Spartans have now won four straight regular season games against the Cascades.

About Spartan Athletics
As official members of U SPORTS, the Spartans currently compete in 10 sports in the Canada West conference, including women's and men's soccer, volleyball, basketball, cross country and track & field. TWU also competes in the British Columbia Intercollegiate Hockey League (BCIHL) in men's hockey. Since TWU entered U SPORTS in 1999, the Spartans have won 11 U SPORTS team championships and 25 Canada West team championships.