A Katie Ulakovic three-pointer with 29 seconds to go proved to be the final dagger to a Gee-Gees team that bent all game long only to break in the final minute losing 69-65 to the Lakehead Thunderwolves.
The final trey was Ulakovic’s eighth of the game, tied for the most threes in a single game in the CIS this season. The Gee-Gees could find no answer for Ulakovic’s outside shot as she only missed two from beyond the arc and only took two shots inside the three-point line.
For the most part, uOttawa dictated the flow of the game as they lead for all but 1:34.
The Gee-Gees got off to a good start on defence holding Lakehead scoreless for nearly the first four minutes. But the Gee-Gees were unable to build a lead of any substantial size in response.
Lakehead took their first lead one minute into the second half, but it would only last 23 seconds as the Gee-Gees responded with 11 straight points. That allowed them to build their biggest lead of the game of 12 points midway through the third frame. The lead quickly dwindled to two by the late stages of the quarter.
Lakehead took their second lead at the exact same moment in the fourth quarter but this time it only lasted four seconds. The Gee-Gees benefited from a few turnovers as a result of their pressure on the ball. Ottawa scored 23 points off turnovers in the game but they were clearly walking a thin line.
Lakehead’s third attempt at the lead came with two minutes to go in the fourth. The Gee-Gees shook it off and tied things up again before Lakehead took the ball with less than a minute to go and executed a perfectly designed passing play that left Jylisa Williams open for the layup and the two point lead.
The Gee-Gees came right out of a timeout to hit Krista van Slingerland with the inbound pass underneath the basket to tie it. Ulakovic then stepped up and drained the eventual game-winning three from the top of the arc. Stephanie MacDonald had the ball with 10 seconds to go in an effort to tie it but couldn’t find open shot.
“It just didn’t seem to be in us. Some of our best players didn’t play their best today,” said Gee-Gees head coach Andy Sparks. “I don’t think it was a real problem from a defensive perspective. I think offensively we didn’t execute the game plan very well. They had three or four kids hit shots down the stretch and we didn’t.”
CIS leading scorer Williams struggled against the Gee-Gee defence and missed an uncharacteristic 13 shots, a lot of them in-and-outs, and turned the ball over six times. Ulakovic finished with a game-high 24 points, picking up Williams’s slack.
The Gee-Gees’ inability to secure rebounds compounded their problems. Lakehead won the battle on the glass 43-25.
“Number nine [Ulakovic], not one time did we get out and defend her,” added Sparks. “She didn’t once go to the rim. So that’s defensive execution in a key situation. We wanted to take Williams out of the game, and I think in general, we did a good job of that.”
“I think it was about shutting down their shooters,” echoed Danielle Marion, who was matched up with Williams one-on-one for the balance of her 25 minutes on the court. “We knew coming in that some of their shooters can go off so we didn’t make sure that we contained them. We needed to guard those threes.”
MacDonald and van Slingerland both put up 17 points to lead the Gee-Gees who will try and make amends when they’re back on court to host the Guelph Gryphons Saturday at 6 p.m. at Montpetit Hall.
“New game. New day. We just have to forget about this one and take down Guelph,” said Marion.