The No. 2 McMaster Marauders are advancing to the U SPORTS Women’s Basketball Championship after defeating the No. 3 Saskatchewan Huskies 73-66 on Saturday afternoon at the Mattamy Athletic Centre.
“It was exactly 29 years ago that one of our bronze medal teams was in Toronto in their semifinal game… so they just made history tonight,” said head coach Theresa Burns. “This is the best team that McMaster has ever had - Ontario champion, gold or silver medal tomorrow, National final, these women just made history and I’m so proud.”
After a long ball down the court, Sarah Gates (Newmarket, Ont.) sunk a layup to put the Marauders on the board. She continued to drive hard to the net alongside Christina Buttenham (Hamilton, Ont.) who confidently stepped into the arc to net a number of clean balls to give the Marauders and early lead.
Saskatchewan utilized every chance they received at the foul line to trail the Marauders 8-7 at the midway point. The Huskies moved well around the Marauders’ posts, but the Marauders created a back screen to lead 16-13 at the end of the first quarter.
The Huskies controlled the second quarter from the start. Katriana Philipenko sunk a three for the opening points and Summer Masikewich (Calgary, Alta.) pushed to put them on board. The Huskies continued to find an opening under the net to only trail 26-21 halfway through the quarter.
If it wasn’t for Gates, who notably put up 12 points in the second quarter, the Marauders would have lost the lead. Gates quickly quieted the Huskies by finding the rim, sneaking her way into the arc and sinking the three balls, while the Marauders struggled with consistency under the net.
The Huskies were able to find power in their momentum and headed into the locker room tied at 33.
McMaster was restored coming into the third quarter and increased their pace to advance past the Huskies. At the midway point of the frame, the Marauders led 43-37, and they built a momentum that didn’t slow down.
“I think when we came out in the first quarter and just owning the other team, I personally was very confident in the team,” said McMaster Player of the Game Linnaea Harper. “We kind of slowed down in the second quarter and I think there was a bit of doubt, but come the third quarter we had that big run, (and) I knew we were good,”
She finished with 10 points, seven assists, two turnovers, two blocks and two steals.
Hilary Hanaka (Hamilton, Ont.) earned herself a three. Gates was completing each shot; she was aggressive down low, and took charge of the foul line. Linnaea Harper (Newmarket, Ont.) was strong in the deep end of the zone and in the arc. She completed plays, and a bounce pass to Buttenham that ended in a layup only increased their momentum more.
Buttenham tallied eight points in the quarter to extend the Marauders lead 59-47.
“That confidence and that fearlessness that this team has this year, that has really been a difference maker and we share the ball,” said Burns. “So when we’re coming at you in a wave of five you never know who is going to score.”
The Marauders continued to dominate into the fourth. Hanaka sunk a three and Harper protected the ball with effective passing while taking advantage of each opportunity in the opening and on the free throw line.
“I have confidence, I know I can make free throws,” said Harper. “‘It’s just another free throw,’ - that’s what you have to remind yourself, and you come in clutch and you hit them.”
The Huskies weren’t giving in without a fight. The Marauders had to tighten their block to prevent their technical offence from pushing through. Saskatchewan’s Summer Masikewich was not afraid to dive in deep to try and trim the deficit. Sabine Dukate stood comfortably atop the arc, tallying 11 points.
“We didn’t get anything easy today. We shot the ball less than what we normally shoot it. I thought we got the ball inside a ton especially in the first half, but we missed some ones around the rim and we missed a bunch of free throws and that was the difference,” said Huskies head coach Lisa Thomaidis. “I thought we gave Gates too many looks at the rim… but other than that we were looking okay.”
The Huskies capitalized on the change in pace to close the gap, but the Marauders took the quarter to the final buzzer for a 73-66 final.
Players of the Game
- McMaster: Linnaea Harper
- Saskatchewan: Summer Masikewich