Gee-Gees senior Tyra Blizzard played in her last USports basketball game on Wednesday. Photo: Desmond Staples/The Fulcrum
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Rams top the Gee-Gees with a display of unbelievable shooting from behind the three-point line

The University of Ottawa women’s basketball team was at home in Montpetit Hall on Wednesday night to take on the Ryerson Rams in the OUA East finals. With a spot in the USports National Championship tournament on the line, as well as a place in the Critelli Cup, there was plenty at stake. 

The Gee-Gees have proved themselves to be a dominant force this season, finishing second in the OUA with an 18-4. In their only meeting of the season, Ottawa defeated Ryerson 74-72, in a tight, fast-paced regular-season game. 

Before the game, OUA all-stars from both teams were acknowledged. 

For Ryerson, Marin Scotten was named a First Team All-Star, and Hayley Robertson was named a Third Team All-Star. The Gees were well represented with Brooklynn McAlear-Fanus named a First Team All-Star, Katherine Follis named a Third Team All-Star, and Natsuki Szczokin named to the all-rookie team. 

As the game tipped off, cheers erupted from throughout the gymnasium. A section of Ryerson fans in blue and yellow offset the garnet and grey that filled the stands. 

In the first quarter, Ryerson was draining every single shot. Before the Gee-Gees could even blink, the Rams had sunk five three-pointers and had a 24-8 lead with only three minutes left on the clock. 

“Our start was horrific,” Ottawa head coach, Andy Sparks said in a post-game interview. 

By the end of the quarter, Ottawa had yet to put up many buckets, but they had managed to slow Ryerson’s scoring. Maia Timmons made a three-pointer for the Gee-Gees to end the quarter, trailing 29-17. 

The Gee-Gees got their second wind in the second quarter. 

Right off the bat, Brigitte Lefebvre-Okankwu found the basket for the Gees, and only minutes later Sczcokin made a pair of shots from beyond the three-point line to bring Ottawa back into the game. 

Big plays on defence helped swing momentum in favour of the Gee-Gees. On more than one occasion, the team forced Ryerson to turn it over on shot clock violations. 

With 31-28 on the board for the Rams, Lefebvre-Okankwu fired the ball in the basket to bring the Gee-Gees within one.

For Ryerson, Scotten powered the ball into the basket from inside the paint to make it a three-point lead, but rookie Gee-Gee Savannah Provo made a slick three-pointer to tie up the game. Emma Fraser followed up with two points for the Rams, but Provo found the three once more to end the half 36-35 for Ottawa. 

The second half was much more of a back-and-forth competition. 

Ryerson inched ahead, but Follis, Lefebvre-Okankwu, and Angela Ribarich put up a fight in the paint to prevent the game from slipping away from the Gees. 

Going into the final 10 minutes of play, the Gee-Gees were trailing 56-53. 

Two minutes into the final quarter, Scotten opened up scoring with a contested three-point make. On the other end of the court, McAlear-Fanus took control of the offence. She drove into the paint and kicked it out to Lefebvre-Okankwu for the three, making the score 61-60 for Ryerson. 

To tie things up at 63, quick ball movement by Ottawa led to a three-pointer at the hands of Timmons. 

Only six minutes remained on the clock, and it was clear that both teams were going to fight right to the end. 

Tyra Blizzard made a shot to put the Gee-Gees in the lead, but Stefanija Mrvaljevic dropped a three-pointer to flip the lead. Again, Ottawa trailed by one at 71-70 after three-pointers were exchanged by Rachel Farwell and Blizzard. 

Throughout the game, Ryerson was raining shots from around the court. In the final three minutes, not much had changed. Robertson put up another three-pointer to extend the Ryerson lead to 74-70.

Ryerson had a six-point lead when Ottawa called a timeout. With only a minute left on the ticking clock, the Gee-Gees needed to manage their time wisely to make up for their deficit. 

At 78-74, the Gee-Gees were still playing from behind with very little time on the clock and were forced to switch up their game plan, and to intentionally foul. 

By making their free-throws, Ryerson did not give the Gee-Gees an opportunity to get back in the game. 

“They’re a shooting team and they just knocked them down,” said Sparks “We lost to a very good team today, that’s a team that will be contending for the national championships. Full credit to them, they deserved the win.” 

With a score of 84-76, the Rams punched their ticket to the USports National Championship, and the OUA finals, where they will battle it out with Brock University for the Critelli Cup. Unfortunately for the Gee-Gees, this marks the end of the road for the 2019-20 season. 

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