Senior Night didn’t unfold the way Kayli Sartori envisioned, but in the end she wouldn’t have it any other way.
Sartori, the Chilliwack native and UFV Cascades’ fifth-year superstar, fouled out in the final regular-season home game of her basketball career with 2:26 remaining in the third quarter.
The Victoria Vikes led 44-40 at the time, and the hosts looked like they were in serious trouble.
But rather than devastate the Cascades, the shocking plot twist served to galvanize them. UFV caught fire in the fourth quarter, scoring 30 points in the frame to rally for a 75-66 victory on Saturday at the Envision Athletic Centre.
Sara Simovic (22 points) and Shayna Litman (20 points) spearheaded the comeback as the Cascades improved to 11-7. They’re in sole possession of eighth place in Canada West, just behind Victoria (12-6), who had won Friday’s opener 68-57.
“When I fouled out, the girls just decided it was their game to take over and you can see the result,” said Sartori, who managed eight points, four rebounds and four steals in 19 minutes before taking a permanent seat on the bench. “There was no better seat in the house, and there was no better way to watch that all unfold.
“I honestly think that the outcome wouldn’t have been what it was if I had been on the floor. There was just so much heart and fight in the girls.”
The Vikes picked up where they’d left off the night before, leading 17-9 at the end of the first quarter and 33-26 at the half. They appeared poised to pull away after Sartori was assessed her fifth and disqualifying foul for charging with more than 12 minutes left in regulation.
But Williams and Simovic hit huge three-pointers early in the fourth to keep UFV close, and Taylor Claggett scored a pair of gritty buckets in the paint on consecutive possessions to give the Cascades their first lead of the night with four minutes to play. Simovic followed with eight points down the stretch, Victoria Jacobse hit a clutch shot with just over a minute left, and Litman hauled down a huge offensive rebound and went 4-for-4 from the foul line in the final minute.
“We had to do it for her (Kayli),” Litman said. “We talked about it at halftime, because she was a little upset (that the Cascades were trailing), and we were like, we literally have to do this for her. It’s her last game, and beating Vic is huge because we have a rivalry with them.”
Cascades head coach Al Tuchscherer was heartened by the way his team responded in Sartori’s absence.
“It could have gone two different ways, and I was pleased to see that the girls really dug in at that point,” he said. “You could see their effort just went to another level – every loose ball was ours, rebounds were ours, and we were finishing with determination.
And Tuchscherer’s thoughts on Sartori’s early exit?
“Probably appropriate for Kayli – she’s kind of a different athlete, right?” he said with a chuckle. “She never does things the conventional way. It doesn’t surprise me that she fouled out in the third quarter of her senior night.”