Photo: Parker Townes
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Gees will rely on young talent throughout the year to improve record

The University of Ottawa Women’s basketball team is heading into their final weekend of play before the winter 2018 semester. Despite having a modest 3-5 record in Ontario University Athletics (OUA) conference play, the team has been in many close games and their points for and against are identical at 59 each. Watch for this team to improve their record going into the second half.

Coach Andy Sparks talked about how he has addressed his team on the importance of winning close games. “We are 3-5 right now and about four of the games were winnable games for us. When it came down to crunch time we didn’t execute, probably in particular on the offensive end,” said Sparks. “That’s related to having a first-year starting four and five, those people are trying to learn our systems.”

The Gee-Gees have had to rely on young talent this year to pace their offence. Their top three in scoring is composed of Brigitte Lefebvre-Okankwu and Maia Timmons, both first-year players, and second-year guard Amélie Hachey. Lefebvre-Okankwu also leads her team in rebounding and Hachey is slotted at third for the same category.

Sparks explained that the team has had to rely on young talent, especially after losing their best offensive threat, Sarah Besselink, to injury before the season started.

“We knew (Timmons) was a good recruit coming in, but she has really played solid for us all the way along, so we feel fortunate. She doesn’t play with much fear, and she’s a competitor,” said Sparks. “Brigitte’s background isn’t as extensive as Maia’s, so she has struggled a little more, but what she lacks in knowledge she has made up for with her work ethic.”

On the offensive side of the ball, the Gees have struggled in terms of field-goal percentage and three-point percentage. With such a young team, Sparks thinks that it largely comes down to the players’ mental game. “It’s not always the quality, I think a lot of it is between the ears, when it comes to shooting,” said Sparks. “When we look at stats from a statistical perspective, we are taking a lot of uncontested shots, which are shots that should be high percentage shots, but for some reason we have been struggling.”

Defensively, the Gees have been good and that has saved them in many games. They are fourth in the league in points given up. They have held two teams to under 40 both twice and coincidentally won both of those games. Sparks will have to look to his defence to spark his offence. With a team so dependent on young talent, the Gees are bound to have growing pains, but the ceiling is high for years to come.

The Gee-Gees will hope to come out of their final weekend before the break at .500 basketball.