Banner Season: McMaster claims first Critelli Cup since 2008 with thrilling win over No. 1 Gee-Gees

Photo by Greg Mason
Photo by Greg Mason

Ottawa – Living up to its billing as a clash of OUA women’s basketball titans, the McMaster Marauders topped the nationally No. 1 ranked Ottawa Gee-Gees for their first Critelli Cup win since 2008. The respective top placed divisional seeds battled back and forth in front of a raucous capacity crowd at Montpetit Hall on Saturday evening. Buoyed by a strong second and third quarter, the Marauders walked away victorious by a 79-75 final margin.

The Gee-Gees started quickly and pulled ahead in the first frame, establishing a 17-10 lead that eventually shrunk as the quarter came to a close. The hosts held a 24-20 lead after 10 minutes, but it would be the Marauders that would seize control throughout the middle stages of the game.

Halfway through the second frame, the tides shifted towards McMaster, who rode hot shooting from second-year guard Sarah Gates to a 42-39 lead at the halftime break. A feverous third frame saw the teams score a combined 50-points, with the Marauders extending their lead 68-63 heading into the deciding quarter.

The offensive fire for both teams dissipated in the fourth the squads dug in defensively. The Gee-Gees were the first team to budge, behind a red-hot three-point shooting effort from fifth-year senior and OUA Second-Team All-Star Sarah Besselink.

As the game came down to the wire, fellow fifth-year guard Hilary Hanaka was the answer the Marauders needed to clinch the Critelli Cup. Holding a slim 76-75 lead, two clutch made free throws from Hanaka, followed by a block on the other end, and one more shot at the line closed out a monster performance for the First-Team All-Star.

“I think our pace was really a difference-maker for us today,” said Marauders head coach Theresa Burns, following her third OUA Championship (2005, 2008). “Our vets stepped up and that’s what you need in the playoffs. We’re going to enjoy this for the next 24 hours, but then once we find out our seeding, we’ll start doing our work again.”

Hanaka, who earned Player of the Game honours, led the Marauders with 22 points, three rebounds, and five steals on the night. Gates’ was also essential in the win with a well-rounded 20-point performance.

“This is a feeling I’ve never felt before, it’s absolutely incredible,” said Hanaka. “It’s nice to know that we can play against top teams in the country like Ottawa. It’s my fifth-year now, and we’ve been in these games, but it’s nice to finally come out on top.”

For the Gee-Gees, Besselink had 20 points, hitting six three-pointers, while also adding five rebounds and three assists. In the paint, forth-year Gee-Gees forward Angela Ribarich also finished with 20 points, to go along with 14 rebounds, and three steals.

“There were some situations there that we needed to clean up,” said Gee-Gees head coach and OUA Coach of the Year Andy Sparks.

“They really hurt us with their perimeter shooting for large parts of the game. Overall we had some of our players step up for us today. Angela had a great game. She came to play and if she does that at Nationals, that’s a tough matchup for anybody in the country. Sarah also had a great game today.”

Up next, both teams will play the waiting game before finding out their seeds and matchups for the U SPORTS Final 8 next week in Toronto. Action at the Mattamy Athletic Centre in Toronto gets underway on Thursday, with the Marauders, Gee-Gees, and host Ryerson Rams all in action at the tournament.