Besselink and Crowe share memories and goals
The women’s basketball team recently closed the year off, claiming the bronze medal at the U Sports Final 8 tournament on March 11. The outstanding finish marked the end of both a dominant regular season and strong playoff run.
The team had a nearly-perfect regular season, holding a record of 21–2. In the playoffs, they fell in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) final to McMaster, but still advanced to the nationals in Toronto. There, the team defeated the University of Saskatchewan Huskies in an exciting second half comeback to get that third-place finish.
For fifth-year seniors Sarah Besselink and Jennifer Crowe, the game was their last in the garnet and grey.
Both Besselink and Crowe played important roles throughout their time at the U of O, contributing to the Gee-Gees team both on and off the court.
After doing a post-grad year, Besselink had a number of offers from Eastern Canada universities. Leaving Kingston, Ont., she chose the Gee-Gees team and the U of O’s human kinetics program, with the intention of going to teacher’s college.
In her first year in the Gee-Gees uniform, Besselink was named to the OUA East all-rookie team.
As the team evolved, she said she believed a more team stable dynamic had formed. In her final few years, she found herself stepping into a leadership role.
“From my third year on, we were definitely a lot closer as a team. We’re like a big family,” Besselink said. “We’re with each other for nine months — we see each other everyday. It’s important to like those people.”
After an excellent first year, Besselink was struck with an ACL injury. During the recovery process, she was offered plenty of reassurance from U of O head coach Andy Sparks, as well as her team.
“It helped with my mental health to have my team’s support,” Besselink said.
That was not the last of Besselink’s setbacks. She faced another grueling injury — this time, a torn meniscus.
Again, the Gees were supportive and excited for her return to the court once the injury was dealt with. In her final two years, she was named OUA second-team all-star twice.
This season, Besselink was a starting guard. She was a top contributor on the Gee-Gees team, averaging 11.2 points per game. In her last outing, she led the way with 13 points to seal the bronze medal.
Despite her exceptional play, her takeaways go further than basketball.
“When you finish your career and look back on it, you don’t say, ‘I had the game of my life in this game.’ It’s more for me about the team experiences and the life experiences I got to have with my team,” Besselink said.
Now that her U Sports basketball career has come to an end, Besselink is looking forward to doing other sports and activities. Still, she plans to remain involved, whether it be helping out with the Gee-Gees, or continuing to coach the women’s prep team, run out of Immaculata High School — Canada Top Flight Academy.
Besselink will be spending six months teaching in a classroom before returning to teacher’s college for another year with the hopes of becoming a full-time teacher.
For Crowe, playing basketball for a Canadian university wasn’t always her first option. With hopes of getting recruited to an American team, she ended up choosing a Canadian school where she could focus just as much on her studies.
After talking to Sparks, Crowe saw the U of O as the right place to take on an engineering program while playing basketball.
“I made it clear that I love basketball. I want to play and I’ll do whatever I have to do to play, but I wasn’t willing to switch programs,” Crowe said.
Mandatory lectures, labs, and reports forced Crowe to miss out on some practices and shoots.
“The hardest thing was how many hours I had to put into school. There were a few weekends where I had to write midterms on the road,” she said.
Crowe found time to make up for the missed hours, finding her way to the gym in order to continue improving.
Coach Sparks, a former teacher, was understanding of the situation as well.
“He actually moved practices to mornings so that I could attend them. He was super supportive through everything,” Crowe said.
Crowe split up her course load, stretching her final year into two. Doing this allowed her to get more out of her classes, as well as give her the time to attend all the practices and fully be a part of the team.
The work Crowe put in undoubtedly paid off. In the playoffs, Crowe led the Gees in scoring with a huge 17 points against York to send the team to OUA semi-finals. From there, she continued to be a presence on the court right up to the final game.
“I’m really proud of our team, but I’m excited to see what next year has,” she said.
Although her time playing for the U of O has come to an end, she will still be in the stands at Montpetit Hall to cheer on the Gee-Gees.
“I’m not entirely sure where my future is going to take me,” Crowe said.