Weekend Preview: Who is hitting the hardwood this weekend?

Weekend Preview: Who is hitting the hardwood this weekend?

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

Time flies when you’re having fun.

This weekend somehow marks the final games of the regular season, which means the postseason is just beyond the horizon. Most of the positions have been locked up across the OUA, but that doesn’t mean the weekend will be without its share of drama to close the year. Seedings are still up for grabs atop both divisions, while the final two spots in the East have come down to three teams, one of which made a late run to make things interesting in the final weekend.

If the rest of the season has been any indication, the final weekend will be nothing short of entertaining as teams look to build, or sustain, momentum heading into the second season. All eyes are on the top teams in the league as they look to advance to make their mark on the banner season festivities, but don’t overlook the idea of potential upsets along the way.

Anything can happen in the playoffs, but first, we need to close the regular season, and what a doozy of a weekend we’ve got on tap. Here are the games you won’t want to miss over the weekend across the province.

Laurentian Voyageurs at Ottawa Gee-Gees – Friday, February 15th

The last weekend of the season has a ton of potential drama that could play out on the hardwood, and some of that could take place in the nation’s capital. The Laurentian Voyageurs have the unenviable task of closing out the season with contests against the Ottawa Gee-Gees and Carleton Ravens with a spot in the playoffs hanging in the balance, but that’s where we stand in the last week before the post-season.

Last weekend, the Voyageurs could have secured themselves a spot in the postseason on their home court when they took on both the Toronto Varsity Blues and the Ryerson Rams. Instead, a pair of losses has Laurentian in the sixth and final playoff spot with 14 points. The Voyageurs sit just two points ahead of the Varsity Blues for the last playoff spot with the final two games ahead for both teams.

While they will have their sights set on completing the regular season sweep of the Ravens on Saturday when they visit Carleton, Laurentian will first look to avenge their January loss to the Gee-Gees on Friday night. In their last meeting, Ottawa used a big second quarter to cruise past the Voyageurs with an 86-61 win. Now, Laurentian has just two wins over their last eight games and are sliding down the standings at the wrong time. However, they still boast the talent to right the ship and secure a spot in the playoffs. Not only that, but thanks to their high-profile win earlier in the year, they also have the confidence that they can hang with the top teams in the league.

You can bet that the back-court rotation of Emily Tinnes (Newmarket, Ont.), Kayla Deschatelets (Timmins, Ont.), Mackenzie Robinson (Collingwood, Ont.), and Andrea Zulich (Sudbury, Ont.) won’t go down without a fight this weekend. Tinnes leads the team with 14.4 points to go along with 4.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game as a fifth-year guard and she will look to lead the Voyageurs to the postseason in her final year at Laurentian. The return of Deschatelets to the lineup after a three-game absence in mid-January has given the Laurentian offence a boost, and Robinson has been playing some strong basketball as of late. Having the win over Carleton to draw on for experience and motivation, Laurentian will look to pull off a pair of upsets against nationally-ranked opponents over the weekend to lock down a spot in the playoffs.

The second-ranked Gee-Gees are riding a nine-game winning streak into the final weekend of the season and it marks the second time this season that they’ve had a such a lengthy stretch on the go. Following a season-opening loss to Carleton, the Gee-Gees rattled off 10 straight wins before a loss to Ryerson on January 6. Since then, Ottawa has been one of the hottest teams in the country, and they sit behind only the undefeated Laval Rouge et Or in the latest U SPORTS Top 10 rankings.

In their first meeting back in January, the Gee-Gees controlled the game on both ends of the floor. They out-rebounded the Voyageurs by a 49-29 margin and held Laurentian to 36.2% shooting from the floor and 25.0% from three-point range. Ottawa had a balanced scoring attack; one that saw three different players score in double-figures while nine of the 12 players who checked into the game recorded at least three points. Brigitte Lefebvre-Okankwu (Gatineau, Que.) led the way with 23 points and six rebounds off the bench in the 25-point road win for the Gee-Gees.

Ottawa’s starting five is one of the best units in the country, let alone the OUA, and that’s been well-documented over the course of the season. Their regular group of starters all average double-digit points per game, led by Lefebvre-Okankwu with 13.8 points per contest. The Gee-Gees boast one of the top forwards in the country in Angela Ribarich (Toronto, Ont.) as she can impact the game on both ends of the court, evident by her per-game averages of 10.8 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 1.9 blocks. Up and down their roster, Ottawa has the experience and talent to make a serious run at the Critelli Cup, as well as a Bronze Baby run, and having already locked up at least a share of first place in the East Division, a win over Laurentian would give them the title outright to keep their momentum going ahead of the postseason.

York Lions at Toronto Varsity Blues - Saturday, February 16th

All eyes will be on the Goldring Centre on Saturday as two games could very well decide the last team into the playoffs on both the men’s and women’s side of things to close out the regular season. A few things need to play out on Friday for Saturday to have the drama-filled night that it could provide, but the rubber-match between the York Lions and Toronto Varsity Blues could help determine who secures a playoff berth in the East Division.

The top four teams have locked up their spot in the playoffs in the East Division, but the bottom two positions are still up for grabs. York, Laurentian, and Toronto are all in contention for the final two spots and are all just two points apart in the standings. The Lions come into the final weekend of the regular season in the best position of the three teams as they currently occupy the fifth spot in the standings with 16 points. A win on Friday over the Ryerson Rams, or a Toronto loss to the Queen’s Gaels would put the Lions in the playoffs. You can bet that York would like to secure their spot with a win, but no matter how it happens, a trip to the playoffs is something they won’t turn down.

York began the 2018-19 season on fire, going 5-2 over their first seven games to put the rest of the OUA on notice early on. They couldn’t maintain that positive momentum and have just three combined wins since mid-November. The Lions come into the weekend on a three-game losing streak, and they have picked up just two wins over their last eight games overall. In their first meeting against the Varsity Blues back on January 11, York picked up a 69-61 win on their home court behind a double-double of 13 points and 12 rebounds from Megan MacLeod (Niagara Falls, Ont.). Now on the road, York will go for the season sweep on Saturday in what should be an intense game from start to finish.

Second-year forward Lauren Golding (Windsor, Ont.) has made big strides this season with the Lions and has emerged as one of the top young stars in the OUA. She ranks second on the team with an average of 9.6 points per game, while her 8.9 rebounds per contest rank second in the league, trailing only Leashja Grant (Nassau, Bahamas) of the Lakehead Thunderwolves.

Guard Katrina Collins-Samuels (Hamilton, Ont.), meanwhile, leads the team with an average of 10.2 points per contest. The Lions have seven players who average at least 6.7 points per game with several having the ability to lead the offence on any given night. With York in the driver’s seat in terms of the final two playoff spots in the division, look for them to find their groove over the weekend and secure a spot in the second season with a win.

Not long ago, it looked as though the Varsity Blues were left for dead in the water after being without guard Keyira Parkes (Scarborough, Ont.) for eight games. Toronto went just 1-7 without their leading scorer and had a record of 4-15 overall heading into last weekend’s action on the road. Parkes returned to the lineup last weekend when the Blues took on both Laurentian and the Nipissing Lakers, and in triumphant manner, the Varsity Blues picked up two massive wins to keep their playoff hopes alive. While they’re still on the outside looking in at the playoffs, the fact that they have a shot at the postseason after a dismal mid-season stretch is something to behold.

Their game last Friday against the Voyageurs could very well be the game of the year in the OUA. They needed double-overtime to decide a winner, with Toronto using some late-game heroics from Christine Jurcau (Richmond, Hill, Ont.) in order to get there. Jurcau’s three-pointer in the first overtime helped the Varsity Blues force a second extra frame and they would go on to pick up the 83-80 win on the road over Laurentian to help gain ground in the playoff race. A win over Nipissing would follow the next night, which sets the table for a fun-filled final two games.

Despite missing eight games, Parkes still leads the team in scoring with an average of 13.7 points to go along with 4.0 rebounds and 2.2 assists per contest. She went for 22 points on 9-of-19 shooting in Toronto’s win over Nipissing last Saturday, giving her nine games with double-digit points this season. First year forward Jessica Muha (Beaconsfield, Que.) has shown some promise in 2018-19, posting 8.7 points and 4.7 rebounds per game over 17 appearances. When you factor in veterans like Nada Radonjic (Toronto, Ont.) and Charlotte Collyer (Colleyville, Tex.) to the mix, the Varsity Blues have some experience that they can draw on over the final two games to help propel them to the postseason.

A few have things must go right during the week leading up to the game but, keep an eye on Saturday night’s game between the Laurier Golden Hawks and Guelph Gryphons. While both teams have secured a spot in the postseason, they are battling with one another for final seedings in the first round. If both teams either win or lose their first game of the week, Saturday’s contest will decide who finishes fifth and who comes in sixth.