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Uottawa

PREVIEW 2016 ArcelorMittal Dofasco CIS women’s basketball championship

Wednesday March 16, 2016
Gees-Gees in action.
Photo: 
Richard A. Whittaker

(with files from CIS)

OTTAWA (CIS) – For the first time since 2011, a new Bronze Baby Trophy champion will be crowned this weekend at the ArcelorMittal Dofasco CIS women’s basketball Final Eight in Fredericton.

The national tournament, hosted by the University of New Brunswick for the first time since 2006, gets under way Thursday at the Richard J. Currie Center and culminates Sunday at 1 p.m. Atlantic Time (12 noon Eastern) with the gold-medal final, live on Sportsnet 360. Saturday’s semifinals are live on Sportsnet ONE (12 noon & 2:30 p.m. Atlantic) and all 11 games from the competition will also be streamed on www.CIS-SIC.tv.

The Windsor Lancers saw their quest for an unprecedented sixth straight title come to an end last Friday when they lost in the semifinal round of the OUA Final Four. Windsor was hoping to break a tie with Laurentian, which reigned over CIS women’s basketball from 1975 to 1979.

The list of contenders hoping to succeed the Lancers on Sunday include the top-seeded McGill Martlets (RSEQ champions), No. 2 Saskatchewan Huskies (Canada West champs), No. 3 Saint Mary’s Huskies (AUS champs), No. 4 Regina Cougars (Canada West finalists), No. 5 Ryerson Rams (OUA champs), No. 6 Alberta Pandas (Canada West bronze medallists), No. 7 Ottawa Gee-Gees (OUA finalists) and No. 8 UNB Varsity Reds (hosts).

Of the group, only Alberta (1999) and Regina (2001) have claimed the CIS banner in the past. McGill (2015), Saint Mary’s (2014), Regina (2013) and Saskatchewan (2011) all fell victims to Windsor in the national final during the Lancers’ remarkable five-year run.

Thursday’s quarter-final matchups include Ottawa vs. Saskatchewan in the 1 p.m. opener, followed by Alberta vs. Saint Mary’s at 3 p.m., UNB vs. McGill at 6 p.m., as well as Ryerson vs. Regina at 8 p.m.

After reaching the CIS championship game for the first time in program history a year ago in Quebec City, where they dropped a 60-47 decision, top-ranked McGill hopes to take the next step and become only the second team from Quebec to capture the Bronze Baby. Over 30 years have passed since Bishop’s back-to-back triumphs in 1983 and 1984.

Winners of five straight RSEQ banners, the Martlets have talent, size and experience on their side, led by two-time all-Canadian forward Mariam Sylla (12.4 points, 8.7 rebounds per game), 6-foot-4 centre Alex Kiss-Rusk (13.6 ppg, 7.8 rpg) and fifth-year point-guard Dianna Ros (8.6 ppg, 4.6 assists per game), all named conference all-stars this year. It has already been a season of firsts for McGill, which reached the top of the national rankings in mid-February and now enters the CIS Final Eight as the No. 1 seed for the first time.    

“We’ve had a target on our back all year so we’re familiar with the pressure of being a top-ranked team. Especially when were on the road, where our opponent is looking for a signature win against the first-place team,” said 13-year bench boss Ryan Thorne, who has guided his squad to a 22-2 overall record against CIS opponents this season - including a 15-1 mark in league play - and the best defensive record in the country with 50.7 points allowed per outing. “The big thing that we’re trying to preach to our group is to go out there from the get-go and try to give them no hope to beat us. We want to play as hard as we can until it’s over because hope is a dangerous thing. If you give a team a little bit of hope, you never know what can happen.”

Second-seeded Saskatchewan is another usual suspect hoping this year might be its time to shine. Crowned in the always competitive Canada West conference thanks to a 78-68 semifinal win over Alberta and a 73-62 gold-medal victory against Regina, the Huskies are making their eighth appearance in nine years at the national tournament. Leading the Saskatoon powerhouse this season is the fifth-year duo of guard Laura Dally (17.2 points per game), the Canada West MVP, and 6-foot-3 forward Dalyce Emmerson (14.6 ppg – 9.0 rpg), a two-time all-Canadian.

“Our team is excited to represent the Canada West conference again at nationals. We played our best basketball of the season this past weekend, and that’s what you want from your team, to be playing their best basketball in March,” said 17-year mentor Lisa Thomaidis, who is also the Canadian women’s national team head coach. “The field at nationals is very strong, and we know we’ll need to be on top of our game in order to advance in the tournament. We have a veteran team who have been here before, so we know what challenges lie ahead and look forward to them.”

Saint Mary’s cruised through the AUS season, suffering its lone loss back on Nov. 28, a 54-51 setback against UNB at the Richard J. Currie Center. The Huskies, who boast the nation’s second-best defence (54.0) behind McGill, have since won 19 straight against CIS competition, including a 62-36 demolition of the Varsity Reds in the conference semifinals and a convincing 63-49 defeat of Cape Breton in the title match.

“We are excited to represent our conference as the AUS champion,” said eight-year head coach Scott Munro, whose team fell to McGill in the first round of last year’s CIS tourney after reaching the national final for the first time in 2014. “The field is going to be very strong and we look forward to playing in Fredericton. UNB will do a great job of hosting and it will be a first-class event.”

Returning to the Final Eight for the first time since they lost to Windsor on their home court in the 2013 final, the Regina Cougars have been ranked in the top six nationally the entire season, and are another serious contender this week. Led by fourth-year forward Charlotte Kot (16.3 points, 8.6 rebounds per game), the Cougars split their regular season series against both Saskatchewan and Alberta on their way to a 27-5 overall record versus CIS opponents.

“We’re a veteran-laden team with three seniors starting and our other two starters in their fourth year,” said 10-year coach Dave Taylor. “Our strength is in the post with Canada West all-stars Charlotte Kot and Alyssia Kajati, but we also have a skilled backcourt with Sidney Dobner’s great ball skills at point guard and Kehlsie Crone and Katie Polischuk both threats from the outside. We’re expecting a tough matchup which the 4-5 game always is, and Ryerson will give us problems as they’re one of the highest-tempo teams in the country. It’ll be a great challenge for us.”

After making its CIS tournament debut a year ago, finishing in sixth place, Ryerson added another page to its record book this season, winning the program’s first OUA banner thanks to a 66-60 defeat of Final Four host Ottawa in the conference final. In her fifth and final campaign, guard Keneca Pingue-Giles has been nothing short of sensational and was named the OUA player of the year - as well as defensive MVP - thanks to her 17.6 points and 4.1 assists per contest.

“We are excited for the opportunity to represent the OUA at the national tournament for the second straight season,” said four-year sideline boss Carly Clarke, whose team led the nation in scoring in league play with 80.3 points per game. “We hope to carry the experience gained last year at nationals and momentum from the OUA championship into this year’s tournament, which is as deep as it has been in a long time. We will focus on every possession and believe that if we play well we can be in a position to win every game.”

For the third straight year, Alberta’s season was extended by a committee of CIS coaches, who once again awarded the Pandas the at-large berth for the national tourney. To be fair, it was hard for voters to ignore the Pandas, who went 24-5 overall against CIS competition, were ranked nationally in every weekly poll over the course of the campaign, and finished only one game back of first-place Saskatchewan in the competitive Canada West conference.

“We’re happy to be back. It’s never easy coming out of Canada West, but we believe that we have a team in place that played its way into national championship title contention,” said 10-year coach Scott Edwards, whose team placed fifth a year ago in Quebec City. “Our returning players have learned a lot from last season and have grown as well, especially our fifth-year back court which has now been to three straight national championship tournaments. They lead us on the court, but we’ll need a total team effort and more than just our key players stepping up if we’re to find any more success than we’ve had in previous tournaments.”

Ottawa returns to the Final Eight for the first time since a sixth-place showing in 2013, which followed the program’s best result, a CIS bronze medal in 2012. The Gee-Gees posted the best record in the OUA in league play, at 17-2, highlighted by a spectacular 76-73 overtime win over Ryerson back on Jan. 23.

“We’ve had a tough go with injuries down the stretch,” said eight-year coach Andy Sparks, who dressed nine players in the OUA Critelli Cup final against the Rams. “The players we have left gave everything they had to earn this spot at nationals, and we’ve fought our way through all season long. We’ll keep fighting this week.”

The last time the UNB Varsity Reds hosted the CIS championship, in 2006, they upset top-seeded Saskatchewan in the first round, sparking a bizarre streak of three straight years where the tournament favourites fell in the national quarter-finals. This year’s V-Reds, who finished fourth in the AUS standings with a 12-8 mark, hope the Currie Center crowd can lift them to another massive upset on Thursday against McGill.

“Our program cannot wait to welcome the best CIS women’s basketball teams in the country to UNB and the Currie Center,” said 10-year head coach Jeff Speedy. “We have had this event marked on our calendar for two plus years now and are excited to take the court and prove we belong.”

NOTES: All practices at the Richard J. Currie Center on Wednesday are open to the media, starting at 9 a.m. (detailed schedule below)... The All-Canadian Awards Celebration is set for Wednesday at 6:45 p.m. Atlantic at The Playhouse and will be streamed live on www.CIS-SIC.tv.

PARTICIPATING TEAMS

No. 1 McGILL MARTLETS

Team Statistics

Head Coach: Ryan Thorne (13th season)

Regular season record: 15-1

Regular season standing: 1st RSEQ

Playoff record: 2-0

Playoff finish: RSEQ champions

Overall record vs. CIS teams: 22-2

Top 10 final ranking (March 1): No. 1

Top 10 best ranking: No. 1 (3 weeks)

Top 10 number of weeks ranked (13 polls): 13

National ranking (offence): 27th (63.6)

National ranking (defence): 1st (50.7)

 

Individual Statistics

Conference award winners: Gladys Hakizimana (rookie), Jennifer Silver (student-athlete), Ryan Thorne (coach)

Conference 1st team all-stars: Alex Kiss-Rusk (F), Mariam Sylla (F)

Conference 2nd team all-stars: Dianna Ros (PG)

Conference all-rookie team: Gladys Hakizimana (G)

Season leaders (points per game): Alex Kiss-Rusk (13.6), Mariam Sylla (12.4)

Season leader (rebounds per game): Mariam Sylla (8.7)

Season leader (assists per game): Dianna Ros (4.6)

 

CIS Championship History

Appearances (not including Regionals): 11th

All-time record (not including Regionals): 11-15 (.423)

All-time medals: 2 (0-1-1)

Best result: Finalists (2015)

Last appearance: 2015 (finalists)

Sequence: 5th straight appearance

Regionals record (2011 & 2012): 0-0

 

NO. 2 SASKATCHEWAN HUSKIES

Team Statistics

Head Coach: Lisa Thomaidis (17th Season)

Regular season record: 18-2

Regular season standing: 1st Canada West Pioneer Division (1st Canada West)

Playoff record: 4-0

Playoff finish: Canada West champions

Overall record vs. CIS teams: 28-3

Top 10 final ranking (March 1): No. 2

Top 10 best ranking: No. 1 (8 weeks)

Top 10 number of weeks ranked (13 polls): 13

National ranking (offence): 2nd (79.5)

National ranking (defence): 9th (57.3)

 

Individual Statistics

Conference award winners: Laura Dally (MVP), Lisa Thomaidis (coach)

Conference 1st team all-stars: Laura Dally (G), Dalyce Emmerson (F)

Conference 2nd team all-stars: None

Conference all-rookie team: None

Season leaders (points per game): Laura Dally (17.2), Dalyce Emmerson (14.6)

Season leader (rebounds per game): Dalyce Emmerson (9.0)

Season leader (assists per game): Sabine Dukate (3.6)

 

CIS Championship History

Appearances (not including Regionals): 10th

All-time record (not including Regionals): 10-16 (.385)

All-time medals: 2 (0-1-1)

Best result: Finalists (2011)

Last appearance: 2015 (4th place)

Sequence: 3rd straight appearance (8th in 9 years)

Regionals record (2011 & 2012): 0-1 (1 appearance)

 

NO. 3 SAINT MARY'S HUSKIES

Team Statistics

Head Coach: Scott Munro (8th season)

Regular season record: 19-1

Regular season standing: 1st AUS

Playoff record: 2-0

Playoff finish: AUS champions

Overall record vs. CIS teams: 27-2

Top 10 final ranking (March 1): No. 3

Top 10 best ranking: No. 2 (1 week)

Top 10 number of weeks ranked (13 polls): 13

National ranking (offence): 12th (70.4)

National ranking (defence): 2nd (54.0)

 

Individual Statistics

Conference award winners: Kennisha-Shanice Luberisse (defensive MVP), Rachelle Coward (Tracy MacLeod Award nominee), Scott Munro (coach)

Conference 1st team all-star: Rachelle Coward (G)

Conference 2nd team all-star: Kennisha-Shanice Luberisse (G)

Season leaders (points per game): Rachelle Coward (16.6), Kennisha-Shanice Luberisse (11.0)

Season leader (rebounds per game): Shanieka Wood (9.6)

Season leader (assists per game): Kennisha-Shanice Luberisse (3.8)

 

CIS Championship History

Appearances (not including Regionals): 5th

All-time record (not including Regionals): 5-6 (.455)

All-time medals: 2 (0-1-1)

Best result: Finalists (2014)

Last appearance: 2015 (tied 7th place)

Sequence: 4th straight appearance

Regionals record (2011 & 2012): 0-0

 

NO. 4 REGINA COUGARS

Team Statistics

Head Coach: Dave Taylor (10th season)

Regular season record: 17-3

Regular season standing: 2nd Canada West Pioneer Division

Playoff record: 3-1

Playoff finish: Canada West finalists

Overall record vs. CIS teams: 27-5

Top 10 final ranking (March 1): No. 5

Top 10 best ranking: No. 3 (4 weeks)

Top 10 number of weeks ranked (13 polls): 13

National ranking (offence): 3rd (77.5)

National ranking (defence): 19th (61.3)

 

Individual Statistics

Conference award winners: None

Conference 1st team all-stars: Charlotte Kot (F)

Conference 2nd team all-stars: None

Conference 3rd team all-stars: Alyssia Kajati (F)

Conference all-rookie team: None

Season leaders (points per game): Charlotte Kot (16.3), Alyssia Kajati (13.3)

Season leader (rebounds per game): Charlotte Kot (8.6)

Season leader (assists per game): Sidney Dobner (5.1)

 

CIS Championship History

Appearances (not including Regionals): 17th

All-time record (not including Regionals): 25-21 (.543)

All-time medals: 7 (1-5-1)

Best result: 1-time champions (2001)

Last appearance: 2013 (finalists)

Sequence: Return after 2-year absence (6th appearance in 9 years)

Regionals record (2011 & 2012): 3-1 (2 appearances)

 

NO. 5 RYERSON RAMS

Team Statistics

Head Coach: Carly Clarke (4th season)

Regular season record: 16-3

Regular season standing: 1st OUA East

Playoff record: 3-0

Playoff finish: OUA champions

Overall record vs. CIS teams: 26-4

Top 10 final ranking (March 1): No. 4

Top 10 best ranking: No. 2 (1 week)

Top 10 number of weeks ranked (13 polls): 13

National ranking (offence): 1st (80.3)

National ranking (defence): 20th (61.7)

 

Individual Statistics

Conference award winners: Keneca Pingue-Giles (MVP & defensive MVP)

Conference 1st team all-stars: Keneca Pingue-Giles (G), Sofia Paska (F)

Conference 2nd team all-stars: None

Conference all-rookie team: None

Season leaders (points per game): Keneca Pingue-Giles (17.6), Sofia Paska (15.2)

Season leader (rebounds per game): Sofia Paska (9.5)

Season leader (assists per game): Keneca Pingue-Giles (4.1)

 

CIS Championship History

Appearances (not including Regionals): 2nd

All-time record (not including Regionals): 1-2

All-time medals: 0

Best result: 6th place (2015)

Last appearance: 2015 (6th place)

Sequence: 2nd straight appearance

Regionals record (2011 & 2012): 0-0

 

NO. 6 ALBERTA PANDAS

Team Statistics

Head Coach: Scott Edwards (10th season)

Regular season record: 17-3

Regular season standing: 3rd Canada West Pioneer Division

Playoff record: 3-1

Playoff finish: Canada West bronze medallists

Overall record vs. CIS teams: 24-5

Top 10 final ranking (March 1): No. 7

Top 10 best ranking: No. 6 (4 weeks)

Top 10 number of weeks ranked (13 polls): 13

National ranking (offence): 9th (72.7)

National ranking (defence): 11th (57.8)

 

Individual Statistics

Conference award winners: Jessilyn Fairbanks (defensive MVP), Brooklyn Legault (rookie)

Conference 1st team all-stars: Jessilyn Fairbanks (G)

Conference 2nd team all-stars: None

Conference 3rd team all-stars: Megan Wickstrom (G)

Conference all-rookie team: Brooklyn Legault (F)

Season leaders (points per game): Jessilyn Fairbanks (15.8), Megan Wickstrom (11.6)

Season leader (rebounds per game): Elle Hendershot (8.8)

Season leader (assists per game): Jessilyn Fairbanks (4.1)

 

CIS Championship History

Appearances (not including Regionals): 12th

All-time record (not including Regionals): 16-15 (.516)

All-time medals: 4 (1-2-1)

Best result: 1-time champions (1999)

Last appearance: 2015 (5th place)

Sequence: 3rd straight appearance

Regionals record (2011 & 2012): 0-1 (1 appearance)

 

NO. 7 OTTAWA GEE-GEES

Team Statistics

Head Coach: Andy Sparks (8th season)

Regular season record: 17-2

Regular season standing: 1st OUA North (1st OUA)

Playoff record: 2-1

Playoff finish: OUA finalists

Overall record vs. CIS teams: 26-5

Top 10 final ranking (March 1): No. 6

Top 10 best ranking: No. 6 (2 weeks)

Top 10 number of weeks ranked (13 polls): 8

National ranking (offence): 15th (68.6)

National ranking (defence): 7th (56.6)

 

Individual Statistics

Conference award winners: Andy Sparks (coach), Krista Van Slingerland (Tracy MacLeod Award nominee)

Conference 1st team all-stars: Kellie Ring (G)

Conference 2nd team all-stars: Catherine Traer (F), Julia Soriano (G)

Conference all-rookie team: None

Season leaders (points per game): Catherine Traer (16.0), Kellie Ring (11.5)

Season leader (rebounds per game): Kellie Ring (7.6)

Season leader (assists per game): Kellie Ring (4.3)

 

CIS Championship History

Appearances (not including Regionals): 7th

All-time record (not including Regionals): 6-10 (.375)

All-time medals: 1 (0-0-1)

Best result: Bronze (2012)

Last appearance: 2013 (6th place)

Sequence: Return after 2-year absence (5th appearance in 8 years)

Regionals record (2011 & 2012): 1-1 (1 appearance)

 

NO. 8 UNB VARSITY REDS

Team Statistics

Head Coach: Jeff Speedy (10th season)

Regular season record: 12-8

Regular season standing: 4th AUS

Playoff record: 1-1

Playoff finish: AUS semi-finalists

Overall record vs. CIS teams: 17-10

Top 10 final ranking (March 1): Unranked

Top 10 best ranking: Unranked all season

Top 10 number of weeks ranked (13 polls): 0

National ranking (offence): 20th (66.8)

National ranking (defence): 22nd (62.8)

 

Individual Statistics

Conference award winners: None

Conference 1st team all-stars: None

Conference 2nd team all-stars: Grace Wade (G)

Conference all-rookie team: None

Season leaders (points per game): Laura Kaye (11.6), Grace Wade (11.3)

Season leader (rebounds per game): Kiley DeLong (7.4)

Season leader (assists per game): Grace Wade (3.4)

 

CIS Championship History

Appearances (not including Regionals): 17th

All-time record (not including Regionals): 15-25 (.375)

All-time medals: 5 (0-3-2)

Best result: Finalists (1976, 1974, 1972)

Last appearance: 2006 (4th place)

Sequence: Return after 9-year absence

Regionals record (2011 & 2012): 0-1 (1 appearance)

 

CHAMPIONSHIP SCHEDULE (all times ATLANTIC)

Wednesday, March 16 (practices at Richard J. Currie Center: OPEN TO MEDIA)

9:00 UNB

10:00 Ryerson

11:00 Saint Mary's

12:00 Regina

13:00 Ottawa

14:00 Saskatchewan

15:00 Alberta

16:00 McGill

 

18:45 All-Canadian Awards Celebration (The Playhouse) (www.CIS-SIC.tv)

 

Thursday, March 17

13:00 Quarter-final 1: No. 7 Ottawa vs. No. 2 Saskatchewan (www.CIS-SIC.tv)

15:00 Quarter-final 2: No. 6 Alberta vs. No. 3 Saint Mary's (www.CIS-SIC.tv)

18:00 Quarter-final 3: No. 8 UNB vs. No. 1 McGill (www.CIS-SIC.tv)

20:00 Quarter-final 4: No. 5 Ryerson vs. No. 4 Regina (www.CIS-SIC.tv)

 

Friday, March 18

18:00 Consolation 1: Loser QF 1 vs. Loser QF 2 (www.CIS-SIC.tv)

20:00 Consolation 2: Loser QF 3 vs. Loser QF 4 (www.CIS-SIC.tv)

 

Saturday, March 19

12:00 Semifinal 1: Winner QF 1 vs. Winner QF 2 (Sportsnet ONE / www.CIS-SIC.tv) *

14:30 Semifinal 2: Winner QF 3 vs. Winner QF 4 (Sportsnet ONE / www.CIS-SIC.tv) *

17:00 5th-place game (www.CIS-SIC.tv)

 

Sunday, March 20

10:00 Bronze (www.CIS-SIC.tv)

13:00 Final (Sportsnet 360 / www.CIS-SIC.tv) *

 

* Webcast of the semifinals & final are on pay-per-view basis.