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Rams rely on inside game to claim Critelli Cup over Gee-Gees

Saturday March 12, 2016
Greg Mason

With uOttawa Gee-Gees starting centre, Katherine Lemoine out for the Critelli Cup Final, it was a tall task for the Gee-Gees to stop the Ryerson Rams in the paint. 

Rams 6’4” centre Sofia Paska was featured heavily in the offence putting up 19 points and propelling the Rams to a 66-60 victory and their first OUA banner. 

Paska pulled down 12 rebounds to complete the double-double earning her player of the game honours. Mariah Nunes and Silvana Jez added 17 points apiece to the cause.

“We knew we had an advantage inside today,” said an elated Rams head coach Carly Clarke. “We were emphasizing rebounding, we knew it would be a physical battle. Our rebounding especially in the second half was tremendous. We got our hands on the basketball in key moments. That’s what held on to the game for us.

“I’m so incredibly proud of these girls and the work they put in. They’ve truly earned it,” added Clarke. “I’ve been working at it for four years with this program but there’s so many other people that deserve credit for helping putting it together. From our administration, the university support, they’ve made it a place that wants to win and be successful in all areas. I’m just privileged to be a part of it.”

From the Gee-Gees perspective, they found energy from the home crowd early but just couldn’t get consistent stops on defence.

“We really struggled to guard their posts cause we didn’t have any,” said Gee-Gees coach Andy Sparks. “They’re hurt so we really couldn’t contest with their post one-on-one so it was a double down match up for us. We had to come off the perimeter a little to defend the post and Jez hit a couple threes which hurt us. We should have come off the ball screen a little more, we were having success with that.”

By making the Critelli Cup Final the Gee-Gees earned an automatic berth in next weekend’s CIS championship on the campus of the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton.

“I’m really proud of those nine kids who were out there. They did a great job today. I don’t know if we will have anyone back next weekend but we’ll be there.”

The Rams seemed to relish the hostile atmosphere. But it was the Gee-Gees holding a slim lead throughout the first quarter until Ryerson jumped in front by one at the end of the quarter.

The Rams quickly made that a seven point margin early in the second but a couple stops and timely shots prevented Ryerson from taking over the game. 

Using the clear size advantage and, the Rams headed to the locker room with a six-point, 35 - 29 advantage with already 24 points in the paint. 

The Gee-Gees were able to contain both OUA player of the year Keneca Pingue-Giles and the previous night’s player of the game, Silvana Jez, to eight total points in the first half.

OUA player of the year Pingu-Giles of the Rams has to sit down midway through the 3rd with four fouls. The Gee-Gees were able to take advantage and brought the game even in her absence. But that was short lived as the Rams used a seven 7-0 run to restore the lead. That was a 51-45 lead they’d carry to the final frame. 

Jez broke out in the second half when she found herself open more often with the Gee-Gees concentrating on defence inside.

Early in the fourth, with the Rams looking to finally get some separation, it was Krista Van Slingerland who stepped up and nailed back-to-back threes to keep it close. 

The last three minutes were frantic with the Rams up by five. Six straight possessions went by with no shot falling. It wasn’t until Pingu-Giles drove the lane with 1:09 to go and played it in putting the Rams up seven that the final nail was effectively struck. 

The Gee-Gees pulled within five but couldn’t get much to fall in the last two minutes. 

“It feels absolutely amazing,” said Paska. “We knew that their big was out so that was the main reason we worked it inside. My post and even our guards, no one could really guard us inside. They (uOttawa) did a great job double teaming me but my shots were falling today. We had all the right pieces this year to win the banner.”

Back on their home court it was a similar scene as the men’s team claimed the OUA banner simultaneously with the women.

“It’s about time, it’s a little bare on the walls of the Mattamy Centre and I hear we’ve got a second (OUA banner) to hang next to it,” said coach Clarke. “So that’s pretty exciting. We spend a lot of time with our men’s team and we get along well, our coaches are friends so it’s so exciting to share this both on the same night with them.”


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