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Tie-Breaker at Capital Hoops

Tuesday January 22, 2013

Women’s Basketball (10-3 OUA)

vs. Carleton (10-3 OUA – no. 5 CIS) at Scotiabank Place, Wednesday January 23, 6 p.m.

The OUA East’s top two teams will do battle for first place on Wednesday night when the Gee-Gees and Ravens women’s basketball teams take to the court at Scotiabank Place for the 2013 MBNA Capital Hoops Classic. The teams sport identical 10-3 records heading into their first head-to-head tilt of the season.

Ottawa captured the women’s Capital Hoops title for the first time last season, so the no. 5 team in the country will be eager to win back the bragging rights for Carleton.  The Gee-Gees are sending a much younger team to defend the title, especially with their lone fifth-year member, Jenna Gilbert, out of the lineup due to injury. Gilbert also holds the uOttawa record for most points scored by a Gee-Gee at Scotiabank Place, netting 19 in last year’s win.

Head Coach Andy Sparks is confident that his rookies will make a good first impression on the big stage. “They’ve played in big games before, and they know how to compete,” he said. “We’re not approaching this as anything but a normal game. As long as they understand that they need to stay within their box of what they can do, they’ll be fine.”

The Gee-Gees enter the game on a nine-game winning streak, while Carleton  has won their last four games after losing the first game back in January by a 61-57 score at Laurentian. Both teams have made their living on the defensive end of the court so far this season, ranking third and fourth in the country in points allowed on average, with Carleton holding the slight edge at 52.8 points compared to Ottawa’s 55.4.

Despite their successes, the Gee-Gees have had some growing pains where their youth as a unit has shone through. The team has made a habit of collecting their wins on the strength of large offensive outbursts, rather than sustained and consistent play. “We have confidence that we can be very good,” said Sparks. “But Carleton is not going to let us have an 18-point run.”

Maddie Stephen has been a consistent force for Ottawa in the paint. The second-year centre leads the OUA and sits second in the CIS in rebounds per game, and will be logging significant minutes at Capital Hoops for the first time. Although she only appeared for nine minutes in last year’s classic, Stephen tallied five rebounds and four points in her first appearance at Scotiabank Place, which is the most of any Gee-Gee who will take the court on Wednesday.

Stephen will be challenged in the post by Carleton’s standout rookie Lindsay Shotbolt. The 6-foot rookie is leading the Ravens with 8.6 rebounds per game and is also averaging 10.2 points per game. Fifth-year guard Alyson Bush paces the Carleton offence with 12.4 points per game.

“The key for us is not to lose belief in ourselves,” said Sparks of his young athletes.  “This team could beat anybody in the country on any given day. We’ve won nine in a row without having any close games in those nine games so getting off to a good start will be important for confidence.”