Ninety-Four Feet: Top contenders continue to find ways to win

Ninety-Four Feet: Top contenders continue to find ways to win

Contributed by: Tyler Bennett / College Court Report Canada (@CCR_Canada)

It’s never too early, or too late, to make a statement.

Through the first three weeks of the OUA women’s basketball season, several teams have been setting the tone with each passing game. The top contenders continually flex their muscle by way of double-digit victories and perfect records. Across the league, you’ll see several multi-game winning streaks, four of which belong to unbeaten teams who appear to be on a collision course amidst their quest for the Critelli Cup.

This past week saw some intriguing storylines develop as a result of these statement wins and these performances should add even more fuel to the fire amidst the conference’s regular season story. A pair of teams finally found their way into the win column for the first time this season, leaving just two teams without a win (sorry, Nipissing and Algoma).

Two veteran guards led their respective teams to a weekend sweep, one of which ranks among the top scorers in the country after posting a pair of 20-point performances. The other stuffed the stat sheet on her home floor, putting together impressive performances that spanned the full 94-feet.

Here are the top story lines from the past seven days across the OUA.

Winning streaks aplenty

Last week, we touched on the fact that the Carleton Ravens and McMaster Marauders were on a collision course for the finals, as both programs led their respective divisions. After another week has come and gone, the two programs are still holding down first-place, but the race for the league title is just beginning to heat up.

At week’s end, eight teams across both divisions are riding winning streaks of at least two games. Six of those teams have won at least three straight games, and five of those teams sit inside the top three in their respective divisions.

The Ravens and Ryerson Rams sit atop the East Division with matching 5-0 records to start the season. Nipping at their heels are the Ottawa Gee-Gees, a team that has won four straight games after losing their opener to Carleton at home. The Garnet and Grey are coming off double-digit road wins over the Windsor Lancers (74-60) and Western Mustangs (84-47) to bring their record to 4-1.

Tied with the Gee-Gees through the first five games are the Queen’s Gaels. The Tricolour picked up wins over the Guelph Gryphons and Algoma Thunderbirds this past week to keep pace with Ottawa and the top teams in the division. Maddie Morris (Seeley’s Bay, ON) averaged 8.0 points and 11.5 rebounds per game over the Gaels’ pair of wins.

In the West Division, the McMaster Marauders continued their strong start to the season by picking up a pair of wins on the road to elevate their streak to five games and reclaim the top spot in the division. Sarah Gates (Newmarket, ON) put together a pair of 24-point performances to lead the Marauders past both the Laurentian Voyageurs and Nipissing Lakers over the weekend.

The Lakehead Thunderwolves had the last week off, remaining at 4-0 for the season. The duo of Leashja Grant (Nassau, Bahamas) and Nikki Ylagan (Mississauga, ON), however, have the Thunderwolves playing at a high clip and have Lakehead in contention early on.

Much like the situation on the men’s side, the level of parity in the league seems to be rather high thus far in the 2018-19 season. While there have been plenty of double-digit wins through three weeks, fans have also seen several games come down to the wire. Any team seems to have a realistic shot at picking up a win each night out and that’s all you can ask for as fans of basketball.

Waterloo Breaks into the win column

The 2018-19 edition of the Waterloo Warriors are the youngest team in all of U SPORTS.

Waterloo has nine first-year student-athletes on their 14-women roster, and they have just one player in their fifth-year of eligibility. Through five games, their lack of experience showed on both sides of the ball. They failed to score above 50 points on offence, while allowing their opponents to eclipse the 60-point plateau on four occasions.

This past week, the Warriors were back at home for a pair of games against the Ryerson Rams and Toronto Varsity Blues. After being held below 40 points for the second time this season in their 61-35 loss to the Rams, the Warriors hit their offensive stride against the Varsity Blues to close out the weekend. And when the final buzzer sounded against Toronto, the young Warriors had their first win of the season.

Waterloo took a three-point lead into the final quarter, but the Varsity Blues made the Warriors work right down to the final buzzer. Toronto brought the game to within a single point in the final minute, but a three-ball from first-year guard Beth Howlett (Burlington, ON) put the Warriors ahead by four with just 19 seconds left on the clock. The Varsity Blues responded with a three-pointer of their own to cut the deficit to just one point again, but they wouldn’t be able to complete the comeback.

First-year guard Kaitlyn Overeem (Brantford, ON) stepped to the free throw line with 10 seconds left on the clock with the chance to put Waterloo up by three. She confidently hit both free throws to extend the Warriors’ lead to 76-73, and after Toronto missed a last-second attempt to tie the game, Waterloo was in the win column for the first time in 2018-19.

Waterloo used a balanced attack to pick up the win, as four players recorded double-digit points on the day. Overeem led all black and gold combatants with 19 points to go along with four rebounds and three assists in the win.

Vanessa Hughes (Hamilton, ON) put forth a strong effort that spanned the full 94-feet, recording 13 points, five rebounds, four assists, and three steals.

Their first win of the season should give the newcomers a new sense of confidence moving forward in 2018-19. As they gain more experience in the OUA, the wins will surely come, and for the nine new faces for the Warriors, their first collegiate win is a memory they won’t soon forget.

Veterans spark perfect weekends for Brock Badgers, York Lions

While the young talent for Waterloo grabbed headlines in their respective victory, it was a pair of veterans that played key roles in a pair of wins for both the Brock Badgers and York Lions.

For Brock, it was honours student Melissa Tatti (Welland, ON) who led the Badgers into the win column for the first time in 2018-19. The St. Catharines squad was up north for games against the Laurentian Voyageurs and Nipissing Lakers. Like Brock’s men’s team, the women’s side came home with a pair of wins – their first two of the year – to improve their record to 2-3.

Tatti was key on both nights for the Badgers. Against the Voyageurs, she stuffed the stat sheet to the tune of 21 points, four rebounds, six assists, and six steals. Brock came away with the 75-60 win to end their three-game slide to open the year. From there, the Badgers made their way to Nipissing University for a Saturday game against the Lakers. Once again, Tatti led the way for the visitors, recording 27 points and two steals in the 73-56 win.

Through five games, Tatti ranks fourth in the OUA in scoring with an average of 19.6 points per game.

As for the York Lions, they got a pair of impressive performances from a fourth-year guard over the weekend to help extend their winning streak to three games and push their record above the .500 mark for the year at 3-2.

Guard Katrina Collins-Samuels (Hamilton, ON) put together two impressive two-way performances for the Lions, much to the delight of York’s home crowd. In York’s 74-59 win over the visiting Algoma Thunderbirds to kick off the weekend, Collins-Samuels recorded a similar stat line to that of Tatti’s well-rounded opener, finishing with 19 points, five rebounds, five assists, and six steals.

The next night, Collins-Samuels went for 18 points, nine boards, four assists, and five steals to help York pick up a slim 77-76 win over a tough Guelph Gryphons team. Over the two games, Collins-Samuels averaged 18.5 points, 7.0 rebounds, 4.5 assists, and 5.5 steals.

Both Brock and York have their share of veteran players on their rosters, and they are showing that experience can certainly win in university basketball. Their records may not be where they had hoped they would be at this point in the season, but the year is still young, and both sides have the talent to fall back on as the year unfolds.