The Gee-Gees pulled out a win with determined inside play down the stretch, topping the Guelph Gryphons 64-61 at Montpetit Hall. Ottawa led through much of the game, but a tense fourth quarter which began with Ottawa ahead 41-39 saw the score tied up four times.
Krista van Slingerland led the Gee-Gees with 14 points including three vital free throws to ice the win. The fourth-year guard made one of two on her first set of pressure filled shots, then chased down her own rebound to earn two more. The Waterloo, Ont. native was also in the spotlight as the organizer of the evening’s fundraiser for the Student-Athlete Mental Health Initiative (SAMHI).
“This was something that needs to be done, and there aren’t many people who are willing to take it on,” said Gee-Gees head coach Andy Sparks of van Slingerland. “She’s managing to have an enjoyable experience with us this year and it’s because of a lot of work by a lot of people but Krista deserves the maximum amount of credit.”
The Gryphons pushed hard in the fourth, trying to achieve the same back-breaking rally that the Lakehead Thunderwolves had on Friday night. “We learned a lot from the game tape from last night, and we were in better control tonight,” said Sparks. “We got some offensive rebounds that were really big to help us out there as well.”
Second-year Gee-Gee Akpene Kwame was tasked with defending Guelph’s Krista MacTavish and limiting the impact of Guelph’s size advantage in the starting five. Ottawa showed strong ball movement with cuts through the paint and countered with pressure on the Gryphons bringing the ball up the court.
“You have to contribute in your own way and today Akpene really contributed a lot,” said Sparks. “She was active and really did a great job.”
Guelph scored in transition early in the second quarter, sensing that Ottawa was disorganized on the run. Rookie guard Ariane Lefevbre provided a spark on both ends, allowing the Gee-Gees to hold a 27-24 halftime lead despite shooting 32 per cent from the field compared to Guelph’s 47 per cent clip. MacTavish had 12 first half points but was limited to 16 overall.
An and-one by Stephanie MacDonald midway through the third extended the Ottawa lead to 36-30, but the garnet and grey offence stalled there and Guelph tied things up at 36-36 with 1:49 to play in the third. Kellie Ring came back with an inside bucket to stop the Gryphon run, but the tug of war had begun.
With things tied up at 50-50 with 4:25 to play, a Julia Soriano jumper made it 52-50. Then Kellie Ring drove to the hoop to go up 54-52. A Ring stop-and-pop jumper from the block added a vital four point cushion at 59-55, which was enlarged by a MacDonald put back.
Guelph was at the line for much of the final two minutes, earning trips from the floor on bonus shots. The Gryphons shot 9-for-12 from the charity stripe in the final frame and closed the gap to 61-59 before van Slingerland countered.