KINGSTON, Ont.- The Carleton Ravens earned its first OUA banner in program history on Saturday evening at the Athletics and Recreation Centre (ARC), defeating the host Queen's Gaels by a score of 49-41 in front of a sell-out crowd of 1,904.
After losing their first game of the season back in November, the Ravens ran the table throughout the rest of their conference and playoff schedule, winning 21 straight contests, the last of which came in a formidable defensive effort against a Gaels squad that also lost only once in the regular season. That defeat also came against the Ravens on February 10 at the ARC.
"It's been a long time coming for this program," said Carleton bench-boss Taffe Charles. "We work hard and I thought this team deserved it, we did a lot of great things this year and overcame a lot of adversity. We're just pleased to win in an absolute hostile environment, defense can win championships and it doesn't fail you especially when things are tight."
Carleton held the Gaels to a 19.7% (15-76) shooting percentage and just two three-point field-goals on the night, while managing just enough offense of their own against a stingy Queen's squad that held them to a 27.1% (16-59) efficiency.
OUA first-team all-star Heather Lindsay tallied a game-high 15 points and 16 rebounds in the victory, and was named the Porter Airlines player of the game in helping the Ravens raise the Critelli Cup Trophy for the first time in its history.
"It was a big statement win for our program," said Lindsay. "We go out there, we see a target and we just try and beat it. That was our goal on the year and we did it for our coach."
"I've known Heather since she was 14-years old and just to see her growth as a basketball player is amazing," said Charles. "When the players want it more than the coach that's what you want to have and she really led this team."
Fellow first-team all-star Catherine Traer added nine points and seven rebounds for the Ravens.
The Gaels were led by first-team conference all-star Emily Hazlett, who picked up 14 points, four rebounds, and three assists. Marianne Alarie tallied 12 points and six rebounds, while Robyn Pearson – also a first-team all-star – added seven points and a game-high 18 rebounds.
The Gaels' sole title remains its OUA championship victory in 2000-01.
"I felt we got good looks at the hoop a number of times, and even when we had those good looks we couldn't make it," said Queen's coach Dave Wilson. "This one we'll just have to forget and move on to the next one (at U SPORTS) and see who we draw. The atmosphere that we had (at the ARC), the signs, the noise, everything like that, it was just a fun place to play."
With a raucous ARC crowd eager to make its presence felt, both teams started out a bit hesitantly in their respective offenses though the opening 10 minutes of the finals, combining for just eight field goals. After Hazlett (Fredericton, N.B.) scored at the 4:59 mark, the Gaels would go cold for the next four minutes, and the Ravens were able to take over the lead with a 6-0 run. Pearson (Toronto) ended the scoreless streak by hitting a long jumper with 30 seconds left, but Traer (Chelsea, Que.) ended the quarter with a quick lay-up to give Carleton a 12-11 lead.
Hazlett started the second with a reverse lay-up, but the Ravens responded with an 8-0 streak to take a 20-13 lead. OUA second-team all-star Elizabeth Leblanc (London, Ont.) drained a three, while Lindsay (Ottawa) made her presence felt in the post, picking up five points in that span as well, which prompted a timeout from Gaels coach Dave Wilson. Carleton would score six more coming out of the break, pushing the lead to as many as 13 points while the Gaels offense continued to struggle with the Ravens' size and length.
Alarie (Sudbury, Ont.) finally ended a seven and a half minute stretch where the women didn't hit a field goal. The Ravens could not take advantage, however, going scoreless in the final 4:30 of the second, and Alarie's drive and lay-up sparked the Gaels on an 8-0 run to end the half. This included a late steal and lay-up from Bridget Mulholland (Kingston), bringing the Carleton lead down to just five heading into the locker rooms.
Lindsay led all players with eight points, while Hazlett and Pearson each tallied seven for the Gaels.
The hosts seemed to pick up where they left off in the early moments of the third quarter, as Alarie and Hazlett each picked up a pair of points to bring the deficit down to one. The Ravens responded with 10-straight points throughout the middle portion of the period, capped off by a three from Jenjen Abella (Hamilton, Ont.) to push the lead back up to double digits. Second-team conference all-star Andrea Priamo (Guelph, Ont.) managed to get a couple of points back in another low-scoring quarter, which ended with the Ravens up 36-28.
After Carleton extended the lead to 12 at the 6:42 mark of the final quarter, the Gaels put together a 7-0 streak over the next four minutes to pull within five. Alarie's three-point basket at the 2-minute mark which made the score 43-38 got the capacity crowd back onto its feet. The Gaels ultimately couldn't overcome the Carleton defense, however, missing their next four shots before Lindsay put the game out of reach by hitting a mid-range jumper with 22 seconds left in the contest.
The Ravens and Gaels will both travel west next week for the Arcelormittal Defaco USports Final 8 national championship, taking place at the University of Victoria from March 9-12.