Katherine DeClerq | Fulcrum Staff
THE GEES LED an incredible season this year, with a record 16-consecutive-game winning streak, their first Capital Hoops victory ever, and to top it off, they managed to win the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) gold medal match against the Windsor Lancers—a team that beat the Gees at the last three OUA championships. In what was a spectacular performance by the University of Ottawa athletes, the women’s basketball team (19-3 regular season; 3-0 playoffs) will be heading to the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) championships in Calgary, Alta. after being named OUA champions, something that has only happened once in the U of O’s history.
Gees push through to final match
Despite a rough start, the University of Ottawa women’s basketball team came out on top in the March 2 OUA semifinal match against the Brock University Badgers (15-7 regular season; 1-1 playoffs), 63-49.
The first half of the game saw the Gees uncomfortable on their own court. Fifth-year centre Hannah Sunley-Paisley only scored four points for Ottawa in the first half, while fifth-year forward Elizabeth Lennox aided with 10 rebounds and two points. The Gees’ nerves left them inclose quarters with the Badgers, trailing score 27-25.
“To be honest, I don’t know why they were so uptight,” said head coach Andy Sparks after the game. “For some reason, we just were not good and I’m not sure why.”
The second half was a more competitive game, with the Gees catching up to their opponents thanks to an alley-oop by Sunley-Paisley. Second-year guard Sarah Nolette secured three three-pointers to gain a 10-point lead.
Sparks commented on Nolette’s contribution to the game, as she stepped up as a leader and a scorer when the veteran players couldn’t make the points.
“She made some shots,” he said. “We needed someone to step up and make them, and that’s what she does. She was a big positive for us.”
The Gees went back to their normal play, with Lennox leading in rebounds, rookie Kellie Ring driving the ball, and fourth-year forward Jenna Gilbert making her signature shots from behind the arc. Ottawa made a remarkable comeback, finishing the game 63-49.
“The reality is that we got through with a win,” said Sparks. “But we can’t play like that tomorrow night.”
Gees upset second-ranked team in OUA championships
On March 3, the University of Ottawa women’s basketball team was called to the centre of the court to accept the OUA trophy after winning the gold-medal match 89-38 against the previous OUA champions, the University of Windsor Lancers (20-2 regular season; 2-1 playoffs).
“I think that is the first time we’ve maintained what we’ve started,” said Sparks of the Gees’ performance. “I think we played 40 minutes of solid basketball with everyone contributing … it was about as much as we could expect and what we’ve been looking for.”
“To beat the reigning national champions by 50—I mean, it makes you feel like you can go all the way,” said Sunley-Paisley.
The game began in the Gee-Gees favour, with Ring powering through the Lancers’ defenders for a deuce. Gilbert pushed the Gees forward even more by scoring 11 points and two rebounds in the first quarter alone.
It was fifth-year guard Teddi Firmi who led the Garnet and Grey to further offensive victory. Paired with Lennox, Firmi hit back to back three-pointers, while Windsor struggled to maintain possession of the ball, ending the first half with a convincing 46-16 lead.
“Windsor is a very talented team, but they are also a very mental team,” said Sunley-Paisley. “They usually hit with a way better shooting percentage than that, and we just got into their heads early in the game and they weren’t hitting their shots, which is like quicksand.”
Despite the large lead, the Gees didn’t let up, scoring the first eight points of the third quarter. Gilbert continued to make unstoppable three-pointers, while second-year guard Laura-Émilie Cyr increased Ottawa’s gap to 42 points with three points of her own.
To the sound of singing fans, the U of O finished Windsor off with a resounding 51-point difference, winning the Gees’ first championship of the 2011–12 season.
“I think yesterday we were just really nervous, and I think we got that out of our system and we came into the game today feeling confident and knowing that we could do it,” said Gilbert.
“We all just fed off each other and played in the moment,” said Ring of the win. “I couldn’t ask to play with better players or ask to play for better coaches, and I just feel blessed … I don’t know—it’s such a great feeling.”
Sparks called this game a team contribution, as almost everyone contributed at least two points to the win, and there was no one person who dominated the play. With an overall scoring percentage of 53.4 per cent—compared to the Lancers’ 21.7 per cent—the Gees played a full 40 minutes of basketball, something that they’ve been aspiring to do since game one.
But the players know they can still do better, and Sunley-Paisley explains the players will meet those extremely high expectations someday.
“We have a long way to go before we can reach our potential, and I don’t think there is time in the next five games for us to reach it. But, that’s an awesome thing to be able to say about your team—that we will never reach our potential and we will always be getting better.”
The team will host the CIS East regionals next weekend in Montpetit Hall before heading to Calgary to compete in the national tournament.