Women's basketball
Photo: Jasmine McKnight/Fulcrum
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U of O now heads to Raven’s Nest for OUA East semifinal

After closing out the regular season with 10 wins and four losses, the University of Ottawa women’s basketball team began their postseason push on Wednesday night against the Laurentian Voyageurs. 

The teams haven’t played against each other since 2020. They were scheduled to meet to close out the 2021-22 season, but the back-to-back games were canceled due to COVID-19 cases on the Voyageurs.

Ranked third in the OUA East, the Gee-Gees were the favourite to win the first-round matchup at Montpetit Hall, and keep their playoff dreams alive. 

The U of O’s regular season points leader, Brigitte Lefebvre-Okanwku was first to score, finding herself wide open under the basket. 

The Voyageurs found a few behind the arch, establishing a quick 6-4 lead. 

Coming off the bench, Ottawa’s Savannah Provo put up a pair of three-pointers, something she’s made look easy all season long. 

Thanks to Provo, the Laurentian lead was erased, and the Gees were up 10-6. 

The Gees created a bunch of turnovers in the middle of the court that helped them increase their lead. 

18-12 was on the score at the end of the first quarter.

Both teams struggled to produce much on offense to start the second quarter. Until Laurentian’s Maria La Rosa dropped a three. 

From there, the intensity picked up. A buzzer-beater jumper by Alana Renon got the crowd into it, but despite the great ball movement out of the Gee-Gees, the Voyageurs never let them get away with it. 

Halfway through the second quarter, the Gees were up 26-22. 

The lead wasn’t quite enough for the Gee-Gees, so Nadine Katumbayi and Melina De lulio added back-to-back threes to the score. 

U of O point guard Natsuki Szczokin added a jumper, and Lefebvre-Okankwu powered her way to the basket to make it a double digit lead going into halftime. 

Leading 38-24, there were still a few things the Gee-Gees needed to clean up. 

The third started slowly as far as scoring points went. 

In the first few minutes, Lefebvre-Okankwu hit a pair of free throws and Renon sneaked through the paint for a layup added to the score, but for a while, that was all the scoring the fans saw.

Instead, the highlight was the defensive pressure put on by the Gees, both in forcing turnovers and in preventing the Voyageurs from scoring for much of the quarter. 

The Gee-Gees still continued to build their lead steadily. 

With ten minutes of play remaining, the Ottawa was up 52-35. 

The U of O opened up the quarter with three consecutive turnovers. Luckily, Laurentian did not make much of it. 

Katumbayi got things started for the Gee-Gees with a three-pointer about three minutes in. 

Then things got spicy. 

The U of O full-court press was quite literally too much for the Voyageurs to handle. De lulio and Provo created turnovers that turned into Lefebvre-Okankwu baskets. 

Szczokin also snuck in a steal, driving and dishing the ball off to Renon for a three. 

The rest of the game went smoothly for the Gees, securing the 75-39 win to move on in playoffs where they will meet the Carleton Ravens in the OUA East semifinal. 

Lefebvre-Okankwu had a game high 23 points, followed by Provo’s 15, and Renon’s 12. 

U of O head coach Rose-Anne Joly looked ahead to the upcoming meeting against the Ravens in a post-game interview. 

“We’re going to be ready to fight, and they’re ready to fight,” Joly said. “It’ll be exciting for the semi-finals to be a rivalry game.” 

“We are really looking forward to it,” Lefebvre-Okankwu added. 

“I’m really confident for the game on Saturday… It’s going to be a fight and we’re going to fight until the last second.”

The Gee-Gees will be at the Raven’s Nest on Saturday, March 19.