In a highly anticipated matchup between U SPORTS top ten combatants, the third-ranked Gee-Gees women's basketball team (17-2) and the sixth-ranked Carleton Ravens (15-4) competed in the annual Capital Hoops Classic on Friday night at the Canadian Tire Centre. After a backand-forth game that included an intensely competitive fourth quarter, the Gee-Gees came away with a 61-52 victory. The win marks the first Capital Hoops victory for the Gee-Gees women since 2015.
Coming into the game, both teams' defenses were ranked among the elite in U SPORTS, so it was no surprise that each team looked locked in on that side of the floor to start the game, as they looked to impose their will early in the game. While the Gee-Gee starters came out cold on the offensive end, first-year guard Alana Renon contributed with some much-needed offence off the bench as she chipped in six points leading to a 13-6 first quarter lead for the Gee-Gees.
In the second quarter, it was much of the same, as the Gee-Gees held the Ravens to just 15.4 percent from the field, however the Ravens kept it close by getting the Gee-Gees into foul trouble and converting their free-throw attempts. At the half, the Gee-Gees held a 29-18 lead, with both teams on pace to score well under their season average for points-per-game.
In the third quarter, the tides turned for the Gee-Gees as they struggled to find any rhythm on the offensive end. During a five-minute stretch the Gee-Gees were held scoreless as the Ravens cut the lead down to just one point. In that third quarter, the Gee-Gees managed just 18.8 percent on their field goal attempts, while turning the ball over four times, leading to a number of Ravens opportunities.
The early minutes of the fourth quarter featured some highly entertaining and tense play as the lead changed between the two teams six different times. Eventually, the Gee-Gees re-claimed the lead with just under four minutes remaining as they went on a 9-2 run and never looked back.
During that fourth quarter run, the Gee-Gees turned to fifth-year captain Sarah Besselink and she delivered by scoring nine of her team high 15 points in the final frame, which included a couple of massive three-pointers.
"Jennifer Crowe defensively was very big for us and she hit some shots in the first half for us too," said Gee-Gees head coach Andy Sparks. "Down the stretch Sarah (Besselink) made a couple big-time fifth-year shots that we needed."
"That's what veteran leadership is all about, they really stepped up down the stretch."
The night's attendance climbed to 9,004 most of which were present in the second half of the game.
"I think we just played basketball and that's what we needed to do," said Sparks. "Our goal was to not let any of the external stuff impact us and I think we did a good job with that."
Along with Besselink, the Gee-Gees got big performances from Angela Ribarich who finished with 11 points, 11 rebounds, and three blocks, while Brooklynn McAlear-Fanus had 12 points, six rebounds, and four assists.
The Gee-Gees now sit comfortably in first place atop the OUA standings with just four games to play in the regular season. They are back in action next weekend as they travel to play the Queen's Gaels (12-7) and the York Lions (8-11). Both games tip off at 6 p.m. EST and can be streamed live on OUA.tv.