Rynkiewicz powers Golden Hawks past Varsity Blues and into quarter-finals

Rynkiewicz powers Golden Hawks past Varsity Blues and into quarter-finals

WATERLOO, Ont. (February 23, 2017) - Second year forward Irena Rynkiewicz scored a team-high 19 points as the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks women's basketball team set a school record for most points in a playoff game in an 86-74 first round win over the Toronto Varsity Blues on Wednesday night at the Athletic Complex.

As a team, Laurier shot over 40 percent from the field and hit nine three-pointers as they broke the old team record of 84 points which was set back in 2003 against the Western Mustangs in the OUA West Semifinals.

"I think it has to be our offensive output," said head coach Paul Falco on what the key to success was for his team against Toronto. "We had 21 assists, which is one of our better numbers of the year. I think we were willing to make the extra pass, find the opener shooter and we were able to knock down shots. When we do that, we're a tough team to stop. I think we could have done better defensively but the offence was there and that carried us through the game."

"We were definitely well prepared for this game," added Rynkiewicz. "We knew what Toronto wanted to do. We came in trying to stop what they wanted to do. It was a bit iffy in the first half but then we got back to it, read the scouting report again and stopped their major threats."

Meeting in the playoffs for the first time since the OUA Bronze Medal game in 2010, the Hawks and Varsity Blues both came out firing on offence in the first quarter. Through the first seven minutes of the quarter, the lead changed hands five times as the two teams scored almost at will.

However, in the final minutes of the frame, Laurier, the seventh seed in the conference, went on a 12-2 run, keyed by seven points from Rynkiewicz to take a 25-16 lead after 10 minutes.

Toronto, the tenth seed entering the playoffs, was quick to respond as they made their five of their first six shots in the quarter in cut Laurier's lead to just one.

With momentum slipping away, the Hawks got two big plays from veteran Kaitlyn Schenck of Kitchener, Ont., in a matter of seconds. The fifth year guard hit a layup before promptly stealing the inbounds pass and hitting another layup to stabilize her team and help the Hawks take a 41-39 advantage into the half.

The Varsity Blues continued to hang around in the third quarter thanks to the play of fourth year guard Rahshida Atkinson of Scarborough, Ont. Atkinson scored six of her game-high 22 points in the third as Toronto trailed by just four points heading to the fourth.

Needing a response, Laurier got it early in the fourth quarter as a 10-4 run to start the frame, highlighted by three-pointers from Rynkiewicz and rookie Brianna Iannazzo of Thornhill, Ont., opened up a 10-point advantage for the Hawks. 

From that point forward, Laurier's veteran backcourt of Schenck and Nicole Morrison of Hamilton, took over, scoring 12 of the Hawks' final 16 points to send the purple and gold to the second round of the conference playoffs for the third time in the last four years.

While both teams shot the ball well from the field, with Toronto shooting 44 percent on the evening, the difference for Laurier came at the free throw line. The Blues, who committed the most fouls in the conference this season, were called for 23 in the game, sending the Hawks to the line for 29 attempts. Laurier would make 21 of those attempts while on the other side, the Blues shot just 9-for-21 from the charity stripe.

"It's been part of our strategy all year no matter who we played," said Falco on Laurier's ability to draw contact and get to the free throw line. "It helped our dribble-drive game and attack game and it exposed them a little bit. They were either going to have to foul or give up some open looks."

Rynkiewicz, a walk-on last season from Mississauga, Ont., and the OUA's leading three-point shooter in the regular season, was nearly unstoppable in the contest, finishing 7-for-11 from the field, including 3-for-6 from three-point range. She also added six rebounds, four assists and four steals.

"She's a pretty cool cucumber," commented Falco on his dynamic guard. "She had the shot going from the outside but she also took some good takes inside which makes her a little tougher to guard. She's a great shooter so we did a great job of getting her open looks, especially late in the clock when the defence started to pack in, she was open on the perimeter."

Aside from Rynkiewicz, both Schenck and Morrison also finished in double-figures with Morrison pouring in 16, to go along with four rebounds and four steals, while Schenck added 15 along with four assists and three rebounds.

For Toronto, Charlotte Collyer of Colleyville, Texas, and Diedre Edwards of Hamilton, joined Atkinson in hitting double-figures as Collyer had 13 points and nine rebounds while Edwards added 12 points.

Laurier moves on to play the No. 4 Carleton Ravens in the OUA Quarter-finals next Saturday, February 25. When the two teams met in Waterloo during the regular season, it was the Ravens picking up a 71-60 victory.

"We're going to have to match their intensity," said Falco on what it will take to knock off the Ravens. "They're a team that plays extremely hard on the defensive end, probably the top defensive team in the province, so we're going to have to find a way to get enough out of our offence. At the same time, we'll have to find a way to control their three key scorers. We're going to look at the tape from last time, make some adjustments but I think the big thing for us is to carry this momentum through and have some belief that we can get it done on Saturday."

Tipoff is set for 6 p.m. at the Ravens Nest in Ottawa and the game can be seen live on OUA.tv.

Source: Laurier Golden Hawks