Team captures seventh seed at nationals in hopes of earning first national title
The Gee-Gees women’s basketball team was in action this weekend in the inaugural Ontario University Athletics (OUA) Critelli Cup Final Four tournament. The Gees secured home court advantage and the rights to host the tournament with a win over Guelph on March 5. Ultimately, the Gee-Gees settled for a silver medal, while Ryerson took the trophy back home to Toronto.
Montpetit Hall was filled with a vibrant and boisterous crowd as supporters for each team showed up to cheer their team on. The qualifying teams for the tournament were the Ryerson Rams, the Windsor Lancers, and the McMaster Marauders.
The Gees came into the tournament with high confidence despite their injury woes, as they knew they would need at least one win to secure their place in the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) Final 8 tournament next week.
In the first matchup on March 11, the Gees took on the McMaster Marauders and ensured they would have a shot at the national title by turning in an excellent performance in the 56–42 win.
The game highlighted the ferocious defence employed by both teams and in the end it was a short-handed Ottawa team who turned up their defensive intensity to grind out the victory.
At halftime, the Gee-Gees held a paltry 19-13 lead, but were able to get into their groove offensively and start pulling away midway through the second half.
Catherine Traer was the standout performer for the Gees as she posted 25 points and six rebounds, including three made shots from beyond the arc.
Kellie Ring recorded a double-double with 12 points and 13 rebounds. Both Traer and Ring had four steals each in the game, highlighting their stellar defensive contributions that were key in the win.
“We played eight players today, hopefully we’ll have a few more back next week,” said Gee-Gees head coach Andy Sparks. “I think it’s very important for players to step up and in the first half those players didn’t make plays and in the second half they did and full credit to them for doing that.”
Sparks also pointed out the contributions made by the team as an entire unit.
“The defence was outstanding, so many of the unsung heroes,” he said. “Traer had a really good game for us and Ring did too, but it was the other girls who were doing a fantastic job defending that allowed us to stay where we were”.
The following night saw the Gees face the Ryerson Rams who had knocked out defending national champions the Windsor Lancers the night before.
The Gees may have been the favourite heading into the gold medal match on their home floor, but instead it ended in a 66–60 upset.
The game got off on a good foot for the Gees, who were able to storm to an early first quarter lead before losing the lead to a buzzer beating layup at the end of the first quarter.
Despite tying the game and taking the lead sporadically throughout the game, the Gee-Gees didn’t have enough in their offensive arsenal to ever establish a dominant lead.
The Gees also had an uncharacteristically poor shooting night, hitting just 30 per cent of their 75 shots throughout the game.
Numerous injuries limited the Gees to just seven players getting meaningful minutes, and the Gees were simply undersized and outmatched against both the OUA Player of the Year Keneca Pingue-Giles, and the previous night’s player of the game, Silvana Jez.
“We had no answer to (the Rams’ size),” said Sparks. “We had to come off the perimeter to double a little bit and they hit a couple threes, we still had our opportunities but we tired out in the end.”
The Gees fought valiantly despite being severely shorthanded, and after the game Sparks was bullish about the team’s chances in the National Championship.
“If we were healthy I’d like our chances a lot more, but I believe we’ve got big heart on this team and that carries you a long way so we’ll see what happens,” he said. “We’ve shown we can play with anyone on any day. Nationals are wide open this year, this is a really important banner… but there’s a bigger banner than that so we’ll try to bring that back next weekend.”
The first new CIS champion in five years will be crowned next weekend, as Windsor’s quest for a record sixth-straight Bronze Baby Trophy came to an end against Ryerson.
Next up for the Gees, who have been ranked as a seventh seed for the Final Eight, is a matchup with the second-seeded Saskatchewan Huskies on March 17 at 12 p.m. EST in Fredericton, N.B.