OTTAWA – Fourth-year guard Mackenzie Puklicz poured in a game-high 21 points to lead the Western Mustangs to a 66-60 victory over the Ottawa Gee-Gees in a first round playoff matchup on Wednesday evening at Montpetit Hall.
With the win the OUA No. 11 Mustangs advance to the OUA Quarterfinals, where they'll face the No. 3 McMaster Marauders this Saturday in Hamilton.
Puklicz came out firing against Ottawa, as she nailed five three-pointers and collected 10 rebounds to lead the game in both scoring and rebounding.
Three other Mustangs scored in double-figures on Wednesday night as Julia Curran dropped in 15 points and added nine rebounds, while Meredith McLeod and Victoria Heine scored 12 and 13 points respectively.
After only three points proved to the difference in the teams' regular season matchup, the opening frame was just as closely contested as their previous meeting against each other, with neither side building a substantial lead.
Heine made her presence felt to begin the game as she sparked the Mustangs with a strong rebounding effort to open the game as the Mustangs did well to stop the Gee-Gees shooters from heating up and dominated the rebounding battle throughout the quarter. The forward combination of Heine and Curran would simply overpower the Ottawa defence to help the Mustangs' scoring, leading to a 24-16 Western lead heading into the second frame.
Both teams struggled to produce points early in the second, but Ottawa would quickly storm back by moving the ball and finding cutters inside. After the Gee-Gees tied the game midway through the quarter, both sides traded points for the remainder of the frame, with the scoreboard set at 37-37 heading into halftime.
The Gee-Gees took the lead in the third by forcing turnovers and running the fast break, looking very much like the team they were earlier this year against the Mustangs. Ottawa began to take control on the offensive boards, maintaining their lead and holding off the purple and white by creating extra possessions. The Gee-Gees jump shots began to fall late in the third frame as Ottawa extended their lead to 56-50 heading into the final quarter.
Ottawa's defence started the frame by double-teaming both Curran and Heine, pressuring Western to play at a faster pace. Despite the extra attention from the opposing team, Curran continued to produce for the purple and white, battling inside for second-chance points.
Puklicz, just as she has all season long, made key plays down the stretch, tying the game with a jump shot a little past the midway point of the quarter before putting the Mustangs in front for good with a three pointer less than a minute later.
With the win over the Gee-Gees, the Mustangs will move on to the OUA Quarterfinals, where they'll take on the OUA No. 3 McMaster Marauders. Game time is set for 2 p.m. on Saturday in Hamilton, and fans can catch the action live on OUA.tv and CHRW Radio.
Source: Western Mustangs