Contributed by: Tyler Bennett / College Court Report Canada (@CCR_Canada)
Another basketball-filled weekend is upon us, and what a weekend it’s shaping up to be across Ontario.
Upon first glance of the women’s basketball schedule, all eyes will focus in on the powerhouse matchup in Hamilton between the Lakehead Thunderwolves and McMaster Marauders. The top two teams in the West Division will go toe-to-toe in a pair of weekend tilts that will likely decide who will get the top seed in the division when the playoffs roll around, and it’s this week’s Marquee Matchup, powered by Planters Canada.
However, there are many other games that are worth watching this weekend that have their own playoff implications. From teams looking to climb in the standings to teams looking to maintain their spot, the weekend ahead could yield some surprising, albeit exciting results with the postseason just around the corner.
Here are three of the top games this weekend that you won’t want to miss!
Laurentian Voyageurs at Ryerson Rams – Friday, January 18th
On Friday night in Toronto, the Mattamy Athletic Centre is the place to be for high-caliber basketball in the OUA. The Laurentian Voyageurs are in town to take on the Ryerson Rams in what should be a tough test for both teams and a good measuring stick to see where they stand with the postseason just around the corner. While the Rams are one of the top groups in all of Canada, they cannot afford to sleep on the Voyageurs.
Laurentian comes into the weekend on the heels of what should be considered a strong showing the weekend prior in Ottawa. The Voyageurs took on both the Carleton Ravens and Ottawa Gee-Gees at home and came away with a split against two of the top-ranked teams in the country. Laurentian knocked off the defending champion Ravens by a 69-66 margin, and they did so without the services of guard Kayla Deschatelets (Timmins, Ont.). The next night, the Voyageurs fell handily to the Gee-Gees, 86-61.
The Voyageurs closed their five-game home stand with a 3-2 record to push their overall mark to 5-9 on the year. Fifth-year guard Emily Tinnes (Newmarket, Ont.) has led the team on offence for most of the season, and she comes into the weekend averaging a team-best 15.1 points per game to go along with 3.4 assists per game. With Deschatelets out last weekend, the Voyageurs saw increased production from the likes of Bailey Tabin (Saskatoon, Sask.), Andrea Zulich (Sudbury, Ont.), and Mackenzie Robinson (Collingwood, Ont.). If the Voyageurs want to make a late-season run ahead of the playoffs, they will need their role players to perform at a high clip, especially if Deschatelets is out longer than a week.
After a five-game home stand, Laurentian will kick off a five-game road trip when they face the Rams in Toronto. It won’t be an easy feat by any means, but the Voyageurs will look to build off last week’s win over Carleton and pick up another upset to help them climb in the standings.
Coming into the 2018-19 season, meanwhile, all eyes were on the Rams and for good reason. Serving as the host institution for the 2019 U SPORTS Women’s Basketball National Championships in March, the Rams know that they are going to be one of the eight teams vying for the title. However, they want to prove that they belong and earn their spot as opposed to having it given to them. Through 14 games, Ryerson sits at 12-2 on the year and they are tied atop the OUA East Division with Ottawa.
The Rams have a balanced roster from top to bottom; one that has its share of veterans and young stars in the making. Seven players for Ryerson are averaging at least 7.6 points per contest this season, and all seven players have played in at least nine games. Adding to their depth, the Rams have five different players averaging 5.1 rebounds per game or more, and they also have five different players with at least 2.0 assists per contest.
Second-year forward Jama Bin-Edward (Waterloo, Ont.) leads the team in scoring, averaging 12.2 points per game on 41.7% shooting from the floor. Veteran Sofia Paska (Etobicoke, Ont.) gives the Rams another big presence inside, and that opens things up on the back end for the likes of Hayley Robertson (Toronto, Ont.) and Cara Tiemens (Newmarket, Ont.) to set up the offence and run things from beyond the arc.
York Lions at Ottawa Gee-Gees – Friday, January 18th
On one side of the ball, you have a team that is looking to move up in the standings to secure a playoff spot and are led by one of the brightest young stars in the OUA. On the other, you have a team that is ranked among the top teams in the entire country and who have their sights set on winning the U SPORTS Women’s Basketball National Championship come March. On Friday night, the York Lions visit the Ottawa Gee-Gees in an intriguing OUA East Division showdown that could shake up the playoff picture.
York comes into the weekend in fifth spot in the division with a 6-8 record. Their 12 points put them just two ahead of Laurentian in the standings, and six behind the Queen’s Gaels, who occupy the fourth spot. The Lions have the tough task of facing Ottawa and Carleton this weekend on the road, but they will be up to the challenge away from home. Wins would go a long way for their confidence levels and help them stay in contention for a playoff spot come February.
The Lions are led by an inside-out tandem of fourth-year guard Katrina Collins-Samuels (Hamilton, Ont.) and second-year forward Lauren Golding (Windsor, Ont.). The pair are the only two Lions who post a double-digit scoring average to this point in the season, with Collins-Samuels leading the way at 11.3 points per game and Golding averaging 10.5 points to go along with a team-best 9.5 rebounds per contest. Golding has emerged as one of the league’s top young forwards, and she has six double-digit scoring games and four double-digit rebounding performances to her name.
Golding, Collins-Samuels, and the rest of the Lions will have their hands full with a talented Ottawa team that has its own share of weapons, both in the paint and on the outside. York will look to come out of the gates strong and try to take the early momentum and ride it to a big win on the road over one of the best teams in Canada.
All season long, the Gee-Gees have been among the top teams in Canada. Since their loss to Carleton in the regular season opener, the Gee-Gees are 12-1 and sit tied atop the East Division with Ryerson at 12-2 on the year. With talent on both sides of the ball and across their entire lineup, the Gee-Gees have proven to be a tough test for every team in the OUA. At home this weekend, the Garnet and Grey will look to keep their winning ways going and stay atop the divisional standings.
Ottawa’s starting group ranks among the best in the country. Three of their five regulars have started all 14 games this season, while leading scorer Brigitte Lefevbre-Okankwu (Gatineau, Que.) has started 12 of 14 games and center Angela Ribarich (Toronto, Ont.) has started all but one game. Lefevbre-Okankwu leads the Gee-Gees with an average of 12.9 points per contest, while all five starters average at least 9.8 points, further highlighting the talent that the starting five possesses. To top it all off, three of the starters are shooting at least 51.9% from the floor on the year.
Their forwards are sound in the paint and effective around the rim, while their guards have the ability to slow things down or speed it up depending on the situation. Simply put, the Ottawa Gee-Gees are loaded with talent in their starting unit.
Brock Badgers at Windsor Lancers – Saturday, January 19th
The playoffs are just around the corner and that puts a higher level of significance on each game from here on out. The Brock Badgers and Windsor Lancers are jockeying for position in the OUA West Division, and the two teams will go head-to-head on Saturday night in a key divisional showdown that could have big playoff implications when the regular season ends. Both the Badgers and Lancers took to the court on Wednesday night this week, yielding different results in the process.
Brock was on the road to take on the Guelph Gryphons on Wednesday. The Badgers had their four-game winning streak snapped by the Gryphons by way of a 77-71 loss. Sitting at 7-8 on the year, the St. Catharines squad currently occupies the fourth spot in the West Division standings and are four points behind the Lancers for third. A win over Windsor on Saturday night would keep Brock within striking distance and give them a boost of positive momentum with the playoff race heating up.
The Badgers are led by one of the most underrated and underappreciated players in the OUA. Veteran guard Melissa Tatti (Welland, Ont.) ranks among the league leaders in both points (17.3) and assists (4.6) per game through 15 contests for the Badgers. When you include exhibition play, Tatti has scored at least 10 points in every game this season. When you factor in the play of Kristin Gallant (Milton, Ont.) and Miranda Smith (Welland, Ont.) in the back court and Courtney McPherson (Welland, Ont.) up front, the Badgers have a talented roster that could make some noise down the stretch.
At the start of the year, Brock limped out of the gates and it looked as though the season was lost before it got rolling. Now, with a recent four-game winning streak fresh in their minds, the Badgers are playing with a heightened level of confidence despite a loss last time out.
After a string of six OUA titles in a seven-year span from 2008-09 through to 2014-15, the Lancers have gone three seasons without a league title to their name. This season, Windsor will be looking to get back into the winner’s circle with a late-season run. They have five wins over their last six contests, and they’re riding a wave of momentum through the second half of the year.
Windsor picked up a mid-week win over the Waterloo Warriors to push their record to 9-6 on the year. As stated above, they sit in third spot in the West Division, four points clear of their opponents on Saturday. The Lancers come into the contest against Brock riding a modest two-game winning streak overall, and they will be looking to push that streak to three with a win over the Badgers at home.
The Lancers won’t blow you away with their offence, but they will frustrate you with their defense at times. Their scoring ranks eighth in the league with an average of 68.3 points per game, while their scoring defence ranks sixth as they hold their opponents to an average of 62.6 points per contest. Kayah Clarke (Hamilton, Ont.) leads the Lancers with 11.9 points per contest on 44.4% shooting from the floor. As a team, Windsor has five players who are averaging at least 7.9 points per game. One of those players is Tyra Blizzard (Ottawa, Ont.) who is averaging 7.9 points predominately off the bench.
Windsor and Brock meet twice within a span of three weeks, and both games will go a long way in determining the OUA playoff picture. Saturday will be the first instalment in the season series, and it’ll be a game that you won’t want to miss.