Top West Division squads collide for early-season clash in the hammer

Top West Division squads collide for early-season clash in the hammer

Hamilton, Ont. – Both squads are coming off a 20-win campaigns; both have an early win under their belts to kick off the 2018 campaign; and both will be looking to edge ahead in what will be an early measuring stick against another of the province’s best. The Windsor Lancers and McMaster Marauders have their sights set on 2-0 and they’ll go for it in a head-to-head tilt as this week’s OUA Marquee Matchup, powered by Planters.

It was a largely successful campaign for both teams a season ago with just four losses on their respective resumes. Sitting tied atop the West Division standings heading into the playoffs, both teams took care of business in the quarterfinals before Windsor ultimately bowed out in the semis against eventual OUA and U SPORTS champions, Carleton. McMaster would suffer the same fate, also taking the loss against the Ravens, but did so in the Critelli Cup final to end their OUA campaign as runners-up. And while last season is in the backburner, the two powerhouses will see plenty of familiar faces back in the fold this year.

Despite all of the returning talent, Windsor will be without one of the best Lancers to ever hit the court – Emily Prevost. Even with the graduation of last year’s leading scorer and rebounder, however, the 2018 edition of the Lancers proved they have plenty of talent to still contend for this year’s crown. They got off on the right foot last week when they defeated the Waterloo Warriors, 70-49, and it was one such returnee, Tyra Blizzard (Ottawa, Ont.), who offered up the initial scoring punch off the bench.

The senior guard poured in 17 points in the season debut, going 5-for-8 from the field, including two from beyond the arc. Fellow reserve Eve Uwayesu (Ottawa, Ont.) chipped in with 11 points and six rebounds, in a game that saw 10 Lancers register at least three points. As they showcased in this opener, it will be a by-committee approach to continue their string of success on the provincial stage.     

This scoring depth is nothing new for Windsor, and it was on display in the two matchups they had with McMaster a season ago. While Prevost led the way in their first meeting – a 64-52 loss to the Hamilton squad – it was a 31-point bench performance that made their second head-to-head matchup much closer, with Mac prevailing 67-63.

In both games last year, the Marauders were led by Linnaea Harper (Newmarket, Ont.) and Sarah Gates (Newmarket, Ont.), but another 17 points from Hilary Hanaka (Hamilton, Ont.) – who missed the first meeting – in the encore proved to be a difference-maker in the two-game season series sweep.

It was this same group that sparked a winning start to the Marauders’ campaign on Wednesday, meanwhile, with Hanaka’s 21-point opener leading the charge early. 12 points and 15 rebounds had Harper stuffing the stat sheet all game, while Gates, along with fellow reserve Clare Sharkey () also chipped in with nine points apiece off the bench to guide the maroon machine to a convincing 75-33 victory.

The team’s scoring is no secret, as they had four players average double-digit points a season ago, with all four coming back to help make up the veteran squad. It comes as no surprise that the aforementioned trio, along with teammate Olivia Wilson (Lion’s Head, Ont.), will once again drive the offensive bus for the Marauders – who ranked third with 71.9 PPG in 2017 – just as Windsor’s veterans will spearhead their respective production.  

McMaster’s loaded roster full of returning players doesn’t stop with the offensive depth; however, as they also boast the ability to lock in defensively and hit the glass. Las year, five players averaged more then five rebounds per contest, good enough to power a fourth overall rank in the OUA, and along with the selfless mentality that led to more than 15 assists per contest, the collective unit will look to put all of these components together to get a big early win in their quest for provincial glory this season.

In addition to Blizzard and Uwayesu, meanwhile, Windsor brings back nine other returning players to buoy the team this time around. Among the additional returnees that will be key contributors for the blue and yellow are Olivia Osamusali (Brampton, Ont.) and Carly Steer (Windsor, Ont.). The former was a key figure on the glass for the Lancers and could very well be among the league-leaders in the category this season, while the latter should see a boost in scoring as one of the team’s top threats. After pouring in 10.8 PPG a season ago, Steer should anchor the offence, especially beyond the arc, where the team hit 33.3% of their shots and Steer herself notched nearly three per contest.

Even with their nearly 70 PPG, perhaps the more impactful strength of the Lancers is their defence, who surrendered an average of just 56 points against last year (2nd in OUA). It will be a grind, as always, to try to reel in the likes of Hanaka (15.1 PPG), Harper (12.5 PPG), and Gates (10.4 PPG), but with the level of talent that both of these squads boast, there is no better way to see where they’re at than by going up against their fellow contenders.  

For their 2018 encores, following up on their respective debut wins against Waterloo, the Lancers will make the trek to Hamilton on Saturday, October 27, with the action tipping off at 1:00pm in Burridge Gym. For fans who won’t be in the stands, the game can also be seen live on oua.tv or the corresponding app on Amazon Fire, Android TV, Amazon Fire, and Roku.