uOttawa top scorers: Hannah Sunley-Paisley, 20 points, 6 rebounds; Jenna Gilbert 20 points; Kellie Ring 13 points, 7 assists
Saskatchewan top scorers: Kiera Lyons, 17 points; Mary Hipperson, 12 points
The University of Ottawa women’s basketball team has advanced to the national semifinal round for the first time in program history after a spectacular come-from-behind overtime win on Saturday. The third seeded Gee-Gees defeated the Saskatchewan Huskies after trailing by 16 at halftime and advance to play second seed UBC tomorrow at 5 p.m. (7 p.m. EST).
CIS Player of the Year Hannah Sunley-Paisley led the Gee-Gees with 21 points, including a number of key baskets as the Gee-Gees fought to take the lead in the fourth quarter.
Ottawa opened the game looking organized on offense and with a high defensive intensity level. Teddi Firmi drew an early charge, Bess Lennox forced turnovers with close on-ball defence at the top of the key, and Ottawa was controlling the defensive rebounds. Saskatchewan grabbed the early lead though as Kiera Lyons came out shooting well, pacing Saskatchewan with seven first quarter points on 3-of-4 shooting.
The Huskies shot 7-12 as a team in the first, good for 58 per cent. The Gee-Gees were held to 6-of-16 shooting, 37.5 per cent. That shooting would continue to be a problem in the second quarter, which was an early turning point in the game.
A Katie Miyazaki three ball opened the second for Saskatchewan, and her hustle on defense gave the Huskies a spark. Saskatchewan hit four straight long balls, including one which only narrowly beat the shot clock, to take a 30-13 lead before Ottawa was able to respond. It was Kellie Ring who broke the ice, driving hard with her left. However, Ottawa’s shooting was simply off the mark throughout the frame and although Sunley-Paisley led a mini-run at the end of the half, Saskatchewan held an intimidating 38-22 lead at halftime.
The Gee-Gees went to their veteran strength in the third quarter to help claw back within reach. The Gee-Gees opened the quarter on an 11 point run as Firmi picked off a Huskie pass on defense and Lennox and Sunley-Paisley got to the free throw line and converted inside to bring Ottawa to 38-27. Jenna Gilbert then picked up an offensive rebound on an Ottawa breakout, putting the lead under 10 at 38-29.
Midway through the fourth quarter, the Saskatchewan lead was down to four points. With the Huskies reeling, Lennox showed off her short range game, hitting a face up jumper. Lennox then made a great pass inside to Gilbert, who converted from the left, making it 52-50. Saskatchewan stretched the lead back to five from the free throw line, but Gilbert responded immediately with a three in transition and Ring tied the game with a runner in the lane after stealing the ball at mid court.
The Gee-Gees then blocked Saskatchewan’s shot attempt in the paint and set up Hannah Sunley-Paisley in the post. Her underhand move to the middle of the paint dropped through the mesh to give the Gee-Gees a 57-55 lead with 1:33 remaining.
Two Lyons free throws tied the game up again, and she then gave the Huskies the lead with a jump shot before Sunley-Paisley was able to answer once more in the post. A Teddi Firmi steal gave Ottawa a chance to take the lead, but two close-range, highly contested shots rattled out, sending the teams into a five minute extra period.
Gilbert connected from three on a pass out of the post from Sunley-Paisley to open the OT. Sunley-Paisley then collected an offensive board in the corner from a Gilbert miss and made her move into the post to put Ottawa up 64-60.
Hannah Sunley-Paisley fouled out of the game with just over a minute and a half to play, but Maddie Stephen came onto the floor and made a huge play, collecting an offensive rebound on the baseline and converting her two handed lay in to put the Gees up 67-62. The Gee-Gees then put the ball in the hands of Kellie Ring, who methodically ran the clock down before kicking the ball out to a wide open Firmi for the 69-62 go ahead shot.
Saskatchewan then turned to the automatic foul strategy, which almost allowed them to tie the game up as they hit back-to-back improbable three point shots. However, Ring sank three pressure free throws to seal the win for Ottawa.
“I think we knew that as soon as we picked up our defense the shooting would come. Everyone played aggressive and that helped us come back,” said Jenna Gilbert about the team’s ability to battle back from a difficult second quarter.
“This is a huge character win for the team,” said Elisa de Wit in the locker room as the team discussed their performance. Players also noted the trust which was shown by Lennox and Sunley-Paisley when they fouled out of the game that their team mates would finish the game strong.
The UBC Thunderbirds defeated the McGill Martlets 65-43 in the tournament’s opening game. The semifinal will be broadcast live on SSN Canada and will be carried live in the Ottawa region by Rogers Cable 22. Tip-off is set for 5 p.m. local time, 7 p.m. Eastern.