The U SPORTS first ranked Gee-Gees women's basketball game hosted the McMaster Marauders in the 2019 OUA Critelli Cup Final on Saturday evening at in front of a capacity crowd at Montpetit Hall.
In the highly intense matchup that featured seven ties and 11 lead changes, the Marauders fended off the Gee-Gees to win their first Critelli Cup since 2008, by a final score of 79-75. Even with the loss, the Gee-Gees will be one of eight teams from across the country playing in this week's U SPORTS Final 8 tournament, in Toronto hosted by Ryerson University.
Despite holding a lead after the first quarter, thanks to some dominant inside play early on from Angela Ribarich, the Gee-Gees were unable to keep up the incredible shooting performance they put together in the first quarter. The Gee-Gees shot 73.3 percent from the field, and found themselves in an unfamiliar position as they trailed the Marauders at the halftime break.
In the second half, both teams tried to pull away, but they were unable to do so as neither team held a a lead larger than seven points at any time. Much of that was due to the defensive pressure but on by both teams, as kept up the offensive barrage they displayed in the first half. The teams scored just 23 combined points in the fourth quarter after scoring a combined 50 in the third frame.
As the game wound down, the Gee-Gees found themselves trailing by just one point with 1:32 left in the fourth quarter. Ultimately, the Gee-Gees were unable to make anything happen down the stretch as the Marauders were able to put the game to bed at the free throw line.
"There were some situations there that we need to clean up," said head coach Andy Sparks after the game. "They really hurt us with their perimeter shooting for large parts of the game. We managed to switch out better in the second half, but then they got to the rim on us and we had trouble guarding the ball."
Leading the way for the Gee-Gees was Ribarich who finished the game with 20 points and 14 rebounds, while Sarah Besselink also chipped in 20 points, including a sizzling 6-11 shooting performance from behind the three-point arc, many of which came at crucial moments late in the game.
Looking ahead to Nationals next week, Coach Sparks is not worried about where the team will be seeded, however is focusing on what the team needs to do to become national champions.
"The seeding for us at nationals doesn't really matter. We've got to go there and beat whoever is in front of us," he said. "There's going to be some good games coming up. Across the country there's some good balance among the Final 8 teams, so we're going to see some really tough competition."
Seeding for the Final 8 is released on Sunday, followed by the tournament kicking off on Thursday in Toronto.