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Uottawa

Incredible 52-51 comeback extends Gee-Gees’ stay at Final 8

Saturday March 16, 2013

It was nearly a typical result in the battle of Carleton and Ottawa - two teams which met for the fourth time this season far from home in the consolation bracket of the CIS Final 8 tournament. The teams dug their trenches in the first quarter, setting up the defensive struggle which was expected; Ottawa posted just 14 first half points. Then in the fourth quarter, an inspired effort from the Gee-Gees flipped the script.

Facing a fifteen point deficit heading into the final frame, Ottawa was desperate for an offensive outburst which had eluded them throughout the contest and dated back to the teams’ last meeting in the OUA East Final. When Carleton’s fifth-year guard Alyson Bush connected on a three-pointer to open the scoring in the fourth, things seemed grim for the garnet and grey.

That’s when Ottawa’s seniors came to the rescue. Alyska Lukan stroked her first three-pointer of the game, followed by a long jumper from Tatiana Hanlan who had been sidelined with three fouls early in the second quarter. Jenna Gilbert drew a foul and made good on one of her free throws to put the score at 49-37, where the teams remained stalemated with four minutes to play.

Gilbert then came through with her first trey of the game and the lead was down to single digits. An outstanding team defensive stand led to an opportunity for Hanlan to sink a transition three from the corner, and suddenly Ottawa could smell the comeback.

“We talked about finishing with pride,” said head coach Andy Sparks, referring to his half-time speech following a disastrous second quarter.  “It was one of the best comebacks I think I’ve been involved with.”

Only a single free throw by Bush interrupted the Gee-Gees attack, which culminated on a steal at the top of the defence by Catherine Traer. The lanky rookie sped down the court, composedly crossed to the left side of the hoop and laid in the tying basket, 50-50.

Following another defensive stop, it was Hanlan who used every ounce of determination in her five-foot-ten frame to drive to the basket and score through traffic for the winning basket. The drama did not end there – with 9.5 seconds to play Carleton had one final chance to win the game. A good take to the rim by fifth-year guard Kendall Macleod bounced off the iron, sending the Gee-Gees to the consolation final on Sunday afternoon.

“We fed off each other, making good plays on the defensive end. We knew we could come back,” said Gilbert. “Alyska was setting great screens to get me open, so I had a chance to shoot more open shots. I’m so happy because we didn’t want to go out like that. We’re proud of each other and happy to get the chance to go out tomorrow and win another game.”

The comeback was required after Carleton exploded out of the gate in the second quarter. Ottawa held an 8-6 advantage after the first quarter in which each team earned four points from the foul line and field goals were at a premium.

The tide turned in the second quarter when the Ravens suddenly found the on switch to their offence. Carleton opened the quarter on a 10-0 run including a three-point splash by Darcy Hawkins which forced an Ottawa timeout.

The regrouping session did not help the Gee-Gees however - they committed eight turnovers in the frame and suffered from poor clock management while seeing Carleton stretch their lead to 31-14 at halftime, thanks to seven points from freshman Lindsay Shotbolt and a buzzer-beating jumper by sophomore guard Chloe Levy.

Ottawa came back with a stronger effort in the third quarter, starting with a score by Catherine Traer in the paint which finished a solid opening offensive set.  Jenna Gilbert stood tall for a block on defensive end, establishing a more aggressive defence, and emotional spark-plug Ariane Lachance-Scantland and Traer scored consecutive and-one efforts to cut the lead to 40-25.

Traer and Soriano hit back-to-back jumpers which cut the Raven lead to 43-30 and ended a drought from outside. As they did throughout the quarter, Carleton answered. This time it was Levy sinking a three to deflate the Gee-Gees momentum. Despite a much stronger quarter, Ottawa was only able to cut into the lead by two points and entered the final frame down by fifteen.

Carleton appeared snake-biten in the fourth, shooting just 1-23 from the field to finish the game 16-52 overall, while Ottawa hit 17-54 leaving both teams just barely above thirty per cent. After going 1-8 from long distance in the first half, the Gee-Gees shooters sank 5-12 the rest of the way.

Most importantly, Ottawa took care of the basketball in the second half, committing just three turnovers. Traer led the Gee-Gees with 13 points, and Gilbert finished with 11 points and a team-high seven rebounds.

“We came in seeded eighth, so for us to get through to the final third game is a testament to the work that the team has put in,” said Sparks. “We gave Windsor all they could handle yesterday and for us to come back today against Carleton... it’s a character win.”

Ottawa will battle the winner of today’s consolation game between the sixth seeded McGill Martlets and the seventh seeded Fraser Valley Cascades for fifth place at the tournament. The consolation final will tip off at 11 a.m. local time on Sunday morning, and will be broadcast on cis-sic.tv

 Highlights and interview exceprt with Andy Sparks are posted on YouTube.

BOX SCORE

                                1              2              3              4              F

Ottawa                 8              6              17           21           52

Carleton               6              25           15           5              51