It was a matter of saving the best for last in Kady Dandeneau's basketball career.
The 23-year-old forward said she is both blessed and cursed to have had the opportunity to play with the UNBC Timberwolves in their inaugural CIS season competing within the Pacific division of the Canada West conference.
"I would've liked to skip the injury part but, I guess on the other hand, it did let me get one year of CIS which was really awesome," said Dandeneau. "I'm really glad I got to play. I don't know about anyone else but I've had way more fun in this league then I did in the B.C. league."
Dandeneau joined the T-wolves for the 2007-08 B.C. Colleges Athletic Association season but her six-year career was marred by various injuries to her left knee - the most serious to her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) which required surgery and caused her to miss the entire 2010-11 season.
But the missed season allowed Dandeneau the chance to play against some of the best basketball talent in Canada by giving her the extra year with the T-wolves.
"Every team is really competitive," she said about the CIS. "There's no weekend you come out and you're like, well we're going to roll over this team. It's just been way more fun. The competition is awesome."
After years of rolling over the competition in the BCCAA/PACWEST league, including winning the provincial championship twice, Dandeneau said it's a new challenge in the CIS.
"It's different being an underdog and having to fight for it," said Dandeneau. "You find different ways that you have to play in order to compete with some of the teams that physically [are bigger then you are].
"I don't like losing at all, I really hate that part, but I do like the better competition," she added. "I really enjoy coming out and getting to play against some of the top players in Canada - that's so much fun competing with them. This is awesome. This is where we should be. I really, really wish I had been able to play a couple more years."
Unfortunately for the Pender Island native, this weekend marks the end of her UNBC basketball career when the T-wolves (6-14) host the Mount Royal Cougars (5-15), tonight and Saturday, 6 p.m., at the Northern Sport Centre. The T-wolf men (5-15) tangle with the Cougars (4-16) after the women's action is done at 8 p.m. both nights.
"It's pretty much the same as any weekend, I just want to go out and get some wins for our team," said Dandeneau. "I hope we can go out successful in our first year as a CIS [program]."
Despite re-injuring her knee during the PACWEST playoffs last year, Dandeneau has played in all 20 games for the T-wolves this season, averaging 25.9 minutes per game. She's hit 70 field goals, 23 treys and is 18 for 28 from the free throw line and has 132 total rebounds. She has also led or tied for the T-wolves lead in points in five games this season.
UNBC women's basketball head coach Loralyn Murdoch said the team will miss Dandeneau's winning attitude.
"She competes harder than any athlete I've ever coached," said Murdoch. "She's harder on herself than anyone I've ever seen. She battles every night. I think she's going to be very emotional [in her final game] but she's going to play hard."
Dandeneau, who will graduate from UNBC this spring with a bachelor's degree in health science, said in a perfect world she'd be able to play professional basketball but she knows it's not a guarantee.
"I'll just put in as much work as I can and see how it goes, see how my knee holds up," said Dandeneau. "Basically it's my knee that will decide it. My heart and my head both want to play but it's all about the knee."
Dandeneau praises CIS refs
The most fun Kady Dandeneau had on the basketball floor this season came two weeks ago in Victoria.
Despite the fact the UNBC women dropped a pair of games, 65-48 and 82-66, to the CIS ninth-ranked Victoria Vikes, Dandeneau said they were probably a couple of the best games she's played in.
"I really liked playing against UVic because the reffing was just awesome," said Dandeneau. "It left us just playing ball, that's all it was about. It wasn't about anything else. It was about whoever is coming out and whoever is going to play the best they're going to win. It was not influenced by anything else.
"Even though we did lose, which really sucked, it was just a lot of fun because we just got out there and we battled."