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

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

Burlington, Ont. - The crème of the crop rises to the top, and as we now just days away from finding out who will be crowned this season's Critelli Cup champions, it should come as no surprise that the top two teams in each division are left fighting for their spots in Saturday's provincial finale. But how do these basketball powerhouses stack up when the stakes are this high?

No. 2 Carleton Ravens (18-5) v. No. 1 McMaster Marauders (21-3)


Pre-Game | If the Carleton Ravens want to move one step closer to defending their Critelli Cup championship from last season, they will need to first get past the team they met in that final contest a year ago. But there is a score to settle between the Ravens and the McMaster Marauders, as the top-seeded Hamilton squad knocked off the black birds in their lone meeting of the regular season. McMaster, who has been one of the top-ranked teams in the country all season, won the West Division title and will look to turn those regular season results into postseason success, but they’ll need to do so against a Ravens team that is aiming to double down on last year’s magical run.

Players to Watch | The Ravens have significant contributors on their roster from last year’s championship team and that experience is invaluable as they look to defend their Bronze Baby title. One such returnee is second-year guard Madison Reid (Carleton Place, Ont.), who had her talents on full display in the Ravens’ quarterfinal win over the Ryerson Rams on Saturday. Reid posted a game-high 23 points to go along with four rebounds and two assists, and was one of four starters to reach double figures in their win over the Rams. In fact, the starting five accounted for 61 of the team’s 74 points in a dominant performance on their home floor. Nicole Gilmore (Hamilton, Ont.) recorded 13 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists to give the team a significant advantage on both ends of the court as well. The East Division’s No. 2 seed will hope that this immense talent and wealth of experience from the fifth-year guard continues into their road tilt with McMaster and they can avenge their early season loss at the hands of the Marauders.

McMaster, meanwhile, found themselves in a tight contest with the Brock Badgers in their quarterfinal contest, but their prolific players came through in the end to ensure the Marauders continued their season for at least one more game. The Hamilton squad came away with the 81-70 win, and like Carleton, their starting five anchored the attack by accounting for 70 of their 81 points. Sarah Gates (Newmarket, Ont.) poured in a game-high 28 points to go along with eight rebounds to pace the Marauders on offence, like she has all season long. Hilary Hanaka (Hamilton, Ont.) finished with 12 points in the win while several McMaster players narrowly missed double-doubles on the night. There’s a reason that the maroon machine is the third-ranked team in the country, and it has to do with their ability to roll out high end players up and down their roster. Their next challenge will be a tough one, however, as they have the reigning national champions in their cross-hairs with a bit of Critelli Cup revenge on their minds.

Season Series | In their only regular season meeting of the 2018-19 campaign, the Marauders went on the road and came away with a double-digit win. 64-52, inside the Raven’s Nest. After suffering just one regular season loss in the two previous seasons combined, Carleton’s defeat at the hands of McMaster brought their total to two in the first of the season.

A significant facet of the win was the Marauders’ lockdown defence that held the Ravens to single-digit outputs in both the first and second quarters, which carried the visitors to a 13-point lead into the break and were never seriously challenges down the stretch in the second half. On offence, the pair of Linnaea Harper (Newmarket, Ont.) and Hanaka led the way with 15 points apiece, while Olivia Wilson (Lion’s Head, Ont.) had 13 points and 12 rebounds for the victors. For the Ravens, the pair of Madison Reid and Nicole Gilmore combined for 31 points in the loss. It was the usual suspects on both sides of the ball that stepped up for their respective squads, including strong efforts from their starters, which is exactly what it could come down to when they decide who will play for this year’s Critelli Cup.

November 24, 2018 | McMaster 64 Carleton 52

 

No. 2 Lakehead Thunderwolves (20-4) v. No. 1 Ottawa Gee-Gees (21-2)


Pre-Game | All eyes will be on the nation’s capital on Wednesday night when the Lakehead Thunderwolves do battle with the Ottawa Gee-Gees in their semifinal get together. The Gee-Gees last won the OUA Championship back in the 2011-12 season and they will look to move one step closer to securing their third league title with a win over Lakehead, but behind one of the best in the business across the country, the Thunderwolves will look to keep their dream season alive and take the next step towards their first Critelli Cup title in school history.

Players to Watch | Stop me if you’ve heard this before. Leashja Grant (Nassau, Bahamas) was one of the top forwards – and players – in the country during the regular season; something she continue to showcase in the quarterfinal win over the Guelph Gryphons. Grant narrowly missed another double-double in the win, finishing the night with 24 points and nine rebounds to go along with five steals. Over the course of the regular season, Grant was a consistent force on both ends of the floor for the Thunderwolves, posting 18 double-doubles over 24 contests. Tiffany Reynolds (Toronto, Ont.) had herself quite the game in the T’Wolves last outing as well; however, flirting with a triple-double to help Lakehead come away victorious. Reynolds finished the night with 14 points, on 7-of-11 shooting, to go along with eight rebounds, eight assists, and three steals. For Lakehead to have success against the Gee-Gees on Wednesday, their role players will need to elevate their games to keep pace with the loaded starting five of Ottawa. But if Reynolds can replicate her quarterfinal stat line, Grant can maintain her elite status, and the rest of the team can chip in on either end of the floor, the T’Wolves might just find themselves playing for a championship come Saturday.

In their 36-point win over the York Lions in the quarters, the Gee-Gees veered away from the team’s standard storyline this season and showcased their impressive depth. A lot has been made about their starting five as the season moved along, but the Gee-Gees made it clear that they boast talent up and down their roster that can affect the outcome of a game on any given night. Against the Lions, nine different players had at least five points for Ottawa, with all 12 recording at least one point. In 14 minutes off the bench, Jennifer Crowe (St. Bruno, Que.) racked up a game-high 17 points on 7-of-10 shooting from the floor, while also chipping in with five boards. Point guard Brooklynn McAlear-Fanus (Ottawa, Ont.) put together another stat-stuffing performance, finishing the night with 13 points, 12 rebounds, four assists, and four steals to further assert herself as arguably the top point guard in the league. Against Lakehead, the front court pair of Angela Ribarich (Ottawa, Ont.) and Brigitte Lefebvre-Okankwu (Gatineau, Que.) will be tasked to keep Grant under wraps on both ends of the floor, but if they’re able to neutralize the daunting threat that the Lakehead forward poses, the Gee-Gees will be in great shape on Wednesday.

Season Series | During the regular season, the Gee-Gees and Thunderwolves met just once. It was a tale of two halves for Lakehead, who after a strong start, couldn’t match Ottawa’s impressive play down the stretch. The Garnet and Grey turned up the heat on both ends of the floor in the second half to pull away for the 28-point win, 83-55.

The Thunderwolves kept pace with the Gee-Gees through the first half – entering the break with a single-digit deficit – but the third quarter saw the home side put considerable distance between themselves and their guests, outscoring the T’Wolves by a 23-9 margin to push their lead to 22 points with 10 minutes to play.

Ottawa had five different players record double-digit points and saw seven collect at least nine points in what was a balanced effort on both ends of the floor. McAlear-Fanus stuffed the stat sheet to the tune of 14 points, 11 rebounds, six assists, and two steals, while Karissa Kajorinne (Thunder Bay, Ont.) led all Lakehead players with 12 points in the loss.

November 16, 2018 | Lakehead 55 Ottawa 83