The No. 1 Laval Rouge et Or will play in the U SPORTS championship game after defeating the No. 4 Ottawa Gee-Gees 60-56 on Saturday night at the Mattamy Athletic Centre.
Early on Saturday, it was a race down the court as Ottawa and Laval fought for possession. Laval was not afraid to take a chance outside the arc, where the Gee-Gees were more likely to carry the ball right to the rim.
Despite the Gee-Gees’ opportunities, Laval’s Sarah-Jane Marois (Québec City, Que.) took control of the court. She stepped outside the arc and drained a three, along with Naomi Lavallee (Drummondville, Que.). Laval was up 13-10 at the end of the first quarter.
“I was just trying to get layups and transition, and my teammates did a really good job of finding me on the court, so I had hope,” said Marois, named Laval’s Player of the Game.
Early in the second quarter, the Gee-Gees suffered two shot clock violations from Laval’s strong defence. Khaléann Caron-Goudreau (Gatineau, Que.) had three blocks, while Lavallee and Jane Gagné (Québec, Que.) each earned one.
In the midst of the turnovers, Claudia Emond (Saguenay, Que.) pushed past the Gee-Gees’ posts, sunk a basket just inside the arc, and Marois drained another three to keep Laval’s momentum. At the midpoint of the quarter, Laval was up 20-14.
In the latter half of the second, the Gee-Gees were getting chances but couldn’t finish. Instead, they took advantage of the foul line. Brigitte Lefebvre-Okankwu (Gatineau, Que.) performed well for the Gee-Gees, tallying seven points in the frame to help Ottawa minimize the deficit and trail Laval 24-23 at halftime.
The Gee-Gees took the lead in the third after stepping up to the free throw line. Emond returned the favour by sinking a three to take the lead once again at 31-29. But the Gee-Gees made it back to the charity stripe to tie it at 31 and again at 33 at the midway point.
Eventually, the Gee-Gees took a slight lead after a number of turnovers. Amélie Hachey (Drummondville, Que.) drained a three and Angela Ribarich (Toronto, Ont.) scored down low to help push the Gee-Gees to a 40-37 lead.
Laval continued to earn trips to the foul line to tie the game at 42 to end the frame.
The race to the finish continued as the fourth got underway, with the Gee-Gees up 48-46 at the halfway point.
Emond controlled the outside of the arc to sink a three and advance Laval 49-48. Two possesions later, Marois accelerated to the net to increase the lead to 53-48, for two of her game-high 20 points.
Caron-Goudreau, who had 10 blocks in the contest, would foul out near the end of game, causing some distress for Laval.
“Full credit to Laval. We knew coming in to this one that Laval was a high class team and that they’re well coached, they work their butts off, and they’ve got players that make plays and they’ve got players that make foul shots,” said Gee-Gees head coach Andy Sparks. “They stepped up in that last two minutes to stretch it out, so full credit to them.”
Even when Laval pulled ahead, the Gee-Gees were not ready to give up the fight. Angela Ribarich hit a jumper to cut the deficit to 59-56. But one last trip to the line for the Rouge et Or sealed the victory.
The Gee-Gees will take on the Saskatchewan Huskies for the bronze medal Sunday at 3:00 p.m. ET / 12:00 p.m. PT, while Laval will play McMaster for the national title at 7:30 p.m. ET / 4:30 p.m. PT Sportsnet 360, Sportsnet Now, and TVA Sports.
“We know we have to play a really good game to win tomorrow,” said Marious. “But we’re ready.”
Players of the Game
- Laval: Sarah-Jane Marois
- Ottawa: Brigitte Lefebvre-Okankwu