Quest for the Cup: A closer look at the quarterfinal matchups hitting the hardwood

Quest for the Cup: A closer look at the quarterfinal matchups hitting the hardwood

Burlington, Ont. - Round 1 is in the books and we're down to just eight teams as we flip the page to quarterfinal action. With upsets headlining the opening chapter of this year's quest for the Critelli Cup, will the same hold true on Saturday as the next wave of postseason action tips off?

No. 5 York Lions (10-13) v. No. 1 Ottawa Gee-Gees (21-2)


Pre-Game | Saturday brings forth a David versus Goliath type of matchup in the quarterfinals of the Critelli Cup playoffs. The upset-minded York Lions come into the tilt with the top-seed Ottawa Gee-Gees riding a wave of momentum, but will be in tough against the top team from the East. York is coming off a thrilling road victory over the Queen’s Gaels in the First Round where they shot their way to the upset win. With a three-game winning streak in tow, the Lions will look to stun the Gee-Gees and punch their ticket to the semifinals. On the other side, the Gee-Gees have had a few extra days to rest and they will be looking to secure their spot in the next round with another dominant performance on their home floor.

Players to Watch | In their first-round win over Queen’s, the Lions used a balanced attack to score the upset. Seven players tallied at least six points on the night, with their veteran contingent taking a starring role. Fourth-year guard Katrina Collins-Samuels (Hamilton, Ont.) brought her A-game on both ends of the floor to help guide the Lions to victory. She went for a game-high 24 points, to go along with four assists and two steals. Off the bench, fifth-year guard Chante Clarke (Toronto, Ont.) added 15 points and five rebounds in just 18 minutes of court time. Lauren Golding (Windsor, Ont.) narrowly missed a double-double, finishing the night with nine points and eight rebounds for another solid performance. The Lions will have their hands full with an Ottawa team that has one of the best starting units in the country, but they will continue lean on their veterans as they look to keep their season alive and add another notch in the win column before the clock strikes midnight on their Cinderella story.

The talent of the Gee-Gees’ starting unit has been well-documented all season long. All five of their regular starters are averaging at least 10.3 points per game this season, and they are strong on both ends of the court. As a team, the Gee-Gees average 77.4 points per game on offence, while holding their opponents to an average of just 56.1. Four of their five starters shot better than 44% from the floor in the regular season, including guard Brigitte Lefebvre-Okankwu (Gatineau, Que.) and centre Angela Ribarich (Toronto, Ont.). Lefebvre-Okankwu leads the team with an average of 14.0 points per game on 51.9% shooting from the floor, while Ribarich averaged an even 11.0 points on a 54.8 FG%. One could list all five starters here as players to watch for the Gee-Gees, but that would be redundant. Each player on Ottawa’s roster is a player to watch, and as a team, they will make things tough for the Lions to continue their impressive run through the postseason.

Season Series | The Gee-Gees had their way with the Lions in their two regular season meetings, picking up two wins by a combined 58 points. In their first encounter back in January, Ottawa had all five of their starters finish the night in double-figures, including Brooklynn McAlear-Fanus (Ottawa, Ont.), who racked up 17 points, eight rebounds, eight assists, and three steals. In the second meeting, this one in February, the result was largely the same. The Gee-Gees jumped out to a double-digit lead at the break and pulled away in the second half for the double-digit win.

January 18, 2019 | York 58 Ottawa 88
February 9, 2019 | Ottawa 78 York 50

 

No. 3 Ryerson Rams (17-6) v. No. 2 Carleton Ravens (18-5)


Pre-Game | Two top-10 teams in the country will go head-to-head on Saturday when the third-seeded Ryerson Rams bring their talents to the nation’s capital for a date with the two-seed Carleton Ravens in a quarterfinal. Chalk this one up as a dream playoff matchup for fans of the game. The Ravens are the defending national champions, while the Rams are this year’s hosts and will be one of the eight teams vying for the title come March. After two losses to close the regular season, Ryerson disposed of the Laurentian Voyageurs in convincing fashion on Wednesday night, and they have their sights set on some redemption against Carleton.

Players to Watch | Forward Sofia Paska (Etobicoke, Ont.) had herself quite the night against Laurentian in the Rams’ Round 1 win, and it’s something that she’ll look to replicate against the Ravens in the quarters. Despite going just 4-of-15 from the floor on Wednesday, Paska finished the night with 20 points to go along with 16 rebounds in the win. Beyond the talented forward, it was a balanced offensive attack for the Rams, who saw eight players record at least five points and nine of the 11 players who took to the court find the score sheet. The pair of Leyki Sorra (Toronto, Ont.) and Marin Scotten (Ottawa, Ont.) recorded 13 points apiece in the win, with Sorra doing so in just 18 minutes off the bench on 4-of-5 shooting from three-point range. Just as they did to open their playoff push, Ryerson relies on their depth and balance to carry them on offence, and if role players like Sorra can keep giving Ryerson significant production off the bench against the Ravens, the Rams will be in good shape moving forward.

After losing just once in the regular season in the past two years combined, the Ravens found themselves in unfamiliar territory in 2018-19. Still, the 18-5 Ravens are the defending national champions, which means they will get everyone’s best shot during the second season. Fortunately, they have the talent to make another run at the crown, led by the trio of Nicole Gilmore (Hamilton, Ont.), Madison Reid (Carleton Place, Ont.), and Alyssa Cerino (Stoney Creek, Ont.). The three players all averaged double-digit points per game during the regular season, led by Gilmore’s 14.3. Gilmore also led the team with 7.7 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game. In just her second season in the OUA, Reid averaged 11.4 points and 2.3 assists per game, while averaging the second-most minutes on the team (29.4). With the experience of having won last year’s national championship under their belts, the Ravens know what it takes to win it all; experience they will need to draw on if they want to go for another lengthy run this postseason.

Season Series | Both of their regular season meetings have been closely contested, but the Ravens came out victorious on both occasions to sweep the season series with the Rams. In their first tilt, Carleton found themselves down by five heading into the fourth quarter, but they outscored the Rams by a 31-18 margin over the final 10 minutes to pick up the win. In the second meeting, the Ravens held a six-point lead of their own after three quarters and they stretched their advantage to nine before the final buzzer. With a spot in the semifinals on the line on Saturday, expect another closely-contested game between two of the top teams in Canada that might very well be decided in the fourth quarter once again.

January 5, 2019 | Carleton 78 Ryerson 70
January 26, 2019 | Ryerson 62 Carleton 71

 

No. 4 Brock Badgers (11-13) v. No. 1 McMaster Marauders (21-3)


Pre-Game | Something will have to give when the fourth-seeded Brock Badgers visit the West Division’s regular season victors, McMaster Marauders, on Saturday in their quarterfinal matchup. The Marauders have one of the top offensive units in the country, averaging more than 79 points per game, while the Badgers held their opponents to an average of 65.5 points per contest. The reigning Critelli Cup finalists will look to get off to a fast start against the Badgers, much like they did in their two regular season meetings, to not only kick off their quarterfinal clash off on the right foot, but their quest for another trip to the Critelli Cup final as well.

Players to Watch | In their win over the Laurier Golden Hawks in the first round on Wednesday night, the Badgers got the bulk of their production from four players: Kristin Gallant (Milton, Ont.), Courtney McPherson (Welland, Ont.), Melissa Tatti (Ancaster, Ont.), and Baelie Campbell (Halifax, N.S.). The four players combined for 47 of the team’s 54 points in their 19-point win over the purple and gold. Up front, McPherson had herself an efficient night in just 25 minutes of action. McPherson went for 14 points (7-of-9 FG), nine rebounds, three assists, two steals, and one block to play a big part in the attack for the Badgers on both ends of the floor. It’s no secret that the Badgers don’t score a ton on the offensive end, and that will put an emphasis on their defensive pressure against a talented McMaster team, but if they can limit the chances for the Marauders – much like they did against the Golden Hawks – then Brock may just be able to pull off the upset and continue their quest towards on OUA championship.

The Marauders have been among the top teams in Canada all season and they come into the playoffs as the No. 3 seed in the latest U SPORTS rankings. A big reason for their national recognition has been their high-powered offence that’s led by the trio of Hilary Hanaka (Hamilton, Ont.), Sarah Gates (Newmarket, Ont.), and Linnaea Harper (Newmarket, Ont.). Gates leads the team with an average of 17.1 points per game through the regular season, while Harper averages team-highs in both rebounds (8.2 RPG) and assists (4.0 APG). All three players can impact the game on both ends of the floor as their talents span a full 94-feet up and down the court. The Hamilton squad is filled with veterans and experience goes a long way in collegiate basketball, especially for a team that was this close to a Critelli Cup title just one year ago. When combining that experience and talent, it’s easy to see why the Marauders have been among the nation’s best teams all season long.

Season Series | Mac swept the regular season series with the Badgers, cruising to a pair of double-digit wins to help them secure the top spot in the West Division. McMaster picked up a commanding 81-62 win over Brock in November, thanks in large part to a 26-point first quarter that gave them a 13-point lead after opening frame. The two teams would have to wait awhile for their second encounter, but the wait didn’t change the result. The Marauders built on their lead as the game wore on, and they held down their home court with a 74-57 win to sweep the Badgers.

November 2, 2018 | McMaster 81 Brock 62
January 30, 2019 | Brock 57 McMaster 74

 

No. 6 Guelph Gryphons (9-15) v. No. 2 Lakehead Thunderwolves (20-4)


Pre-Game | Two of the best players in the OUA will take to the court in a must-watch game between the Guelph Gryphons and the Lakehead Thunderwolves, and both programs will be looking to move one step closer to securing the coveted Critelli Cup. The Gryphons last won the OUA Championship back in the 2004-05 season, while the Thunderwolves haven’t been able to secure the title in their program’s history. But as both sides push toward etching their names in the history books, a solid effort on Saturday in Thunder Bay will be a critical step along the way.

Players to Watch | The Gryphons had four wins over their final six regular season games to build some positive momentum heading into the playoffs. As the sixth seed in the West Division, Guelph went on the road in Round 1 and took down the No. 3 Windsor Lancers in nail-biting fashion, 62-59. Second-year guard Burke Bechard (Dover Centre, Ont.) was once again at the forefront of the attack for the Gryphons, posting a game-high 20 points, while rounding out her performance with 10 rebounds, five assists, and three steals. Bechard is one of the more underrated players in the OUA, but remains one of the most consistent producers on both ends of the court. Sarah Holmes (Welland, Ont.) narrowly missed a double-double of her own, posting 11 points and nine rebounds against the Lancers. With Guelph riding a big wave of momentum as a result of their win over the recent winning ways, the Gryphons will look to their star players once again as they take on the unenviable task of battling the T’Wolves in Thunder Bay with a spot in the semifinals on the line.

Lakehead boasts arguably the best player in the OUA this season – forward Leashja Grant (Nassau, Bahamas). Grant finished the regular season as the league leader in both scoring and rebounding, averaging 20.6 points and 12.5 rebounds per contest. She was the only player in the OUA to produce a double-double per night out, totaling 18 in all during the regular season. While Grant remains the focal point, however, she isn’t the only player that opposing teams must worry about when they take on Lakehead. Guards Nikki Ylagan (Mississauga, Ont.) and Karissa Kajorinne (Thunder Bay, Ont.) have made big strides over the course of the season and have emerged as top-caliber options on offence for the T’Wolves. Kajorinne averaged 13.5 points per game during the regular season, while Ylagan was not far behind with 12.6. All three players shot at least 40.5% from the floor as well, making each of them effective options to pour in the points on any given night. The Thunderwolves have made impressive strides this season as a program, and they will look to continue their run with a quarterfinal victory over the Gryphons on Saturday.

Season Series | Given Lakehead’s proximity to the rest of the OUA, the Gryphons played host to the Thunderwolves to open the second half of the season back in January. In their first of two meetings, Lakehead managed to fend off a surging Guelph team in the fourth quarter to come away with the slim 67-66 win. The next night out, the Thunderwolves were able to relax a bit more down the stretch. Lakehead took a five-point lead after three quarters and were able to build on that cushion over the final 10 minutes to secure the 12-point win and sweep the weekend. Guelph was close, albeit not close enough to knock off the powerful T’Wolves, but the playoffs bring with it a clean slate and a new chance for Guelph to conquer their divisional foes.

January 4, 2019 | Lakehead 67 Guelph 66
January 5, 2019 | Lakehead 76 Guelph 64