Contributed by: Tyler Bennett / College Court Report Canada (@CCR_Canada)
The first half of the 2018-19 season in the OUA is now in the books. And what a first half it was.
The last month and a half has provided fans with a little bit of everything. Each team across the conference has at least one win to its name heading into the break, the top of the standings in each division are packed with talent, and the title race down the stretch will undoubtedly be an exciting one to watch and be a part of. Fans have seen the usual suspects rise to the top, while an underrated group has emerged as arguably the team to beat after picking up yet another top-10 victory on Friday night.
Future stars have emerged in the conference, but not to be outdone, the veterans in the league have put their talents on display all season long – and this weekend was no exception.
Here’s what you may have missed over the last seven days in the OUA.
Lakehead hands Ryerson its first loss of the season
Don’t look now, but the Lakehead Thunderwolves are staking their claim as the team to beat in the OUA this season.
With one top-10 win in their pocket already this season, the Thunderwolves welcomed the Ryerson Rams to Thunder Bay on Friday night for another U SPORTS Top 10 showdown. Lakehead already has a win against the defending champion Carleton Ravens under their belts, and they had their sights set on the second-ranked Rams this time around.
The game proved to be a tale of two halves. The first half was a low-scoring affair, as Ryerson held a slim 21-20 lead after the first 20 minutes of action. Lakehead opened the third quarter, however, on a 6-0 run to take a five-point lead, 26-21. Hometown guard Karissa Kajorinne (Thunder Bay, ON) scored four of the Thunderwolves’ six points during that stretch.
Lakehead would not trail the rest of the way.
The Thunderwolves never let the Rams really threaten to take a lead of their own in the second half. A three-pointer from Nikki Ylagan (Mississauga, ON) with just over three minutes to play in the fourth quarter gave Lakehead a 14-point cushion at 64-50 – their biggest lead of the game. Lakehead would cruise down the stretch, holding down their home court with a 72-63 win over the second-ranked Rams.
Kajorinne led all scorers on the night, posting 26 points to go along with six rebounds and two steals to pace the attack for the home side. Leashja Grant (Nassau, Bahamas) recorded yet another double-double, finishing with 14 points and 12 rebounds in the win.
Lily Gruber-Schulz (Grand Marais, MN) recorded 10 points of her own to round out the trio of Lakehead players in double-digits.
Ryerson was led by second-year guard Jama Bin-Edward (Waterloo, ON), who scored a team-high 11 points to go along with four steals. Katherine Follis (Toronto, ON) chipped in with 10 points off the bench in a losing effort. As a team, the Rams shot just 35.5% (22-of-62) from the field on the night.
With the win, the Thunderwolves now have two wins over top-10 teams in the U SPORTS weekly rankings in a span of just over two weeks. Lakehead themselves came in at No. 10 in last week’s edition, but with wins over Ryerson and the Toronto Varsity Blues this past weekend, they have slid up one spot to ninth in the country.
Lakehead may not be your traditional powerhouse program in the OUA, but anything is possible in any given season, and as the team continues to rack up these high-profile victories, they are surely making a strong case to be the team to beat when play resumes in January.
And when the winter semester does roll around, a pair of games on the road against the McMaster Marauders – a battle that may prove influential in determining the West Division’s top squad – should definitely be circled on your calendars.
McMaster holds down home court against tough competition
The McMaster Marauders had their hands full this week at home, as both the York Lions and Queen’s Gaels brought their A-game to Burridge Gymnasium in the hopes of picking up a massive win over one of the conference’s top contenders. Both teams had their sights set on picking up two points on the road, but the Marauders had other ideas.
When the dust settled, McMaster took care of business and picked up a pair of convincing wins.
Up first, the Lions came to Hamilton on Friday night and were treated quickly to a nine-point deficit after the first quarter. From there, York was never able to fully recover. McMaster took a 46-29 lead at halftime, and they cruised in the second half to the 84-62 win to push their record to 8-2 on the year.
The loss dropped York to 5-3 at the time.
Sarah Gates (Newmarket, ON) led the way against the Lions, posting a game-high 22 points to go along with five rebounds. Hilary Hanaka (Hamilton, ON) added 18 points and seven rebounds of her own, while Linnaea Harper (Newmarket, ON) chipped in with 17 points for a balanced offensive attack.
From there, the Marauders welcomed the high-powered Queen’s Gaels to town on Saturday to close out the first half. With Marianne Alarie (Sudbury, Ont.) in tow, the Gaels looked to give the Marauders all they could handle. Instead, McMaster held Alarie to just six points on the night, and they once again cruised to a 20-point victory.
Despite the eventual victory, Saturday night saw the Marauders in a much closer battle over the opening 20 minutes. While McMaster would take a seven-point lead after the first frame, Queen’s chipped into the lead in the second quarter to cut the deficit down to three points going into the half. McMaster found their groove in the third quarter, outscoring the Gaels by a 27-8 margin to put the game away.
The trio of Gates, Hanaka, and Harper combined for 56 points in the 86-66 win for the Marauders. Harper recorded 16 points, 14 rebounds, eight assists, four steals, and three blocks for an impressive performance that spanned the full 94-feet.
With another perfect weekend, the Marauders sit at 9-2 on the year and the race between McMaster and Lakehead atop the standings is at the forefront heading into the new calendar year.
Can Laurentian turn things around in the second half?
There’s still time for teams with sub .500 records to turn things around come January, and one who will be looking for better results in the second half of the season will be the Laurentian Voyageurs. Their record is 3-7 after the first 10 games, but things could have easily been better and then we’d be looking at the Voyageurs in a different light.
Two of their seven losses have come by single-digits, including a two-point loss against the Waterloo Warriors. Five of the seven losses have been by 15 points or less, so the Voyageurs have been competitive on a regular basis, but the results haven’t been there. A six-point loss to McMaster shows that Laurentian has a team that can hang with the top teams in the league for a full 40-minutes, and with that confidence in their pocket, the results will come.
Laurentian has a healthy mix of veterans and young talent on their roster this season, which bodes well for the future of the program. Guard Emily Tinnes (Newmarket, ON) is the lone fifth-year player on this year’s squad, which means that the bulk of the roster could very well be back together next season. Tinnes is one of just two players to have started all 10 games in the first half of the season. She is averaging a team-best 17.1 points per game on 32.4% shooting from the floor.
Third year guard Kayla Deschatelets (Timmins, ON) is the other student-athlete to have started all 10 games in the first semester. Deschatelets is averaging 14.8 points to go along with a team-high 3.6 assists per game. The pair of Tinnes and Deschatelets give the Voyageurs one of the more underrated guard tandems in the league, and they could very well lead Laurentian to some upset wins in the second half if all goes well.
The play of fourth-year guard Mackenzie Robinson (Collingwood, ON) will also be a big factor in whether the Voyageurs can turn things around or not. Robinson is the team’s top rebounder, averaging 7.7 per contest. She is averaging just shy of 2.0 offensive rebounds per game which is second on the team behind Bailey Tabin (Saskatoon, SK), who averages 2.2. Robinson will need to be an impact player on the glass on both ends of the court, limiting opponents to one opportunity at the basket on defence while trying to create second-chance points for the Voyageurs on offense.
In the second half, the Voyageurs will play two games each against Queen’s, Ryerson, Ottawa, and Carleton, all of whom are among the top-ranked in the conference. While the Voyageurs will be the underdogs more often than not, they will have the opportunity to play the role of spoiler against the league’s top competition and cause a massive shakeup in the standings.
The talent is there for Laurentian to turn things around in the second half and contend for a playoff spot. But at the very least, with most of their roster potentially back next season, the Voyageurs could be building some positive momentum in the hopes of making a run at the title in 2019-20, much like Lakehead is doing this season.