VICTORIA (U SPORTS) – The McGill Martlets outscored the Lava Rouge et Or 24-14 in the fourth quarter to cement their lead and claim a 66-55 victory in the ArcelorMittal Dofasco U SPORTS Women’s Final 8 National Championship game at the CARSA Performance Gym in Victoria.
“Our slogan this year was ‘Together We Rise’ and now we have risen to the top, with a U SPORTS National Championship,” said Martlets head coach Ryan Thorne.
Fourth-year centre Alex Kiss-Rusk was named both the Championship MVP and Player of the Game for McGill for her dominating performance of 15 points and 20 rebounds.
“She was the MVP of our team and she brought that with her to this situation so this was definitely a great opportunity for her,” said Thorne.
Kiss-Rusk and her 20 rebounds were a big part of the Martlets out-rebounding Laval 52-32 in the contest.
“Huge factor,” said Laval head coach Guillaume Giroux when asked how important the rebounding margin was in the game. “We managed to deal with that a bit better when we played them in the season but they killed us on the glass, on both sides.”
The Martlets’ rebounding advantage was key both offensively and defensively, their 13 offensive rebounds in the game led to 18 second-chance points compared to just the four that the Rouge et Or managed.
“Our size is greater than theirs,” said Thorne. “If they want to look for a bunch of three-point shooting, they have to get smaller so I knew that if we did a good job on the glass we could be successful.”
Laval’s 55 points in the game was 14 less than in any other game they played in the tournament, something that Giroux attributed to a tough Martlet defence.
“We were a little cold but you have to give them credit because our separation was not huge. They got on us a bit more and we had to do our layups through contact and we weren’t able to make those,” said Giroux. “We missed a couple of easy ones but they also forced us to rush some shots and that made it difficult.”
While Kiss-Rusk was the focal point of the Martlets’ offence, the depth on McGill also shone, with Marika Guérin, Frédérique Potvin and Jennifer Silver all scoring in doubledigits.
“That’s what this team is built on, we’ve never focused in on one player, we have some strengths but overall we were just unselfish,” said Thorne. “We like each other, work with each other and know that we can’t do it unless we work together.”
Jane Gagné was named the Player of the Game for the Rouge et Or, scoring a team-high 13 points in her 35 minutes on the court. Justine Guay-Bilodeau added 10 points for Laval in the final game of her university career.
“I’m really proud of our girls,” said Giroux. “When I got the job the job two years ago, if you told me I would be playing here in our second year I would have been really happy with that.
“All the credit goes to the girls, they worked really hard, believed in what we do and I’m really happy that we have such a good future.”
The win gives the Martlets their first-ever women’s basketball national championship and a spot in the history book, as the winner of the first U SPORTS Women’s Final 8 Championship.