Contributed by: Tyler Bennett / College Court Report Canada (@CCR_Canada)
With each passing weekend, the playoff picture seems to get more and more packed at the top of the divisional standings, and this weekend was no exception.
Another upset loss has created a two-way tie atop the West Division as the top two teams sit at 12-2. Over in the East, you’ll find a similar scenario with the top two teams sitting at 12-2. Behind them are the defending national champions who now sit a game back of top spot after a road loss to the Laurentian Voyageurs to open their weekend.
From Shoot for the Cure games to potential playoff previews, the past seven days had a little bit of everything for basketball fans all across the province, so here’s what you may have missed from the past seven days across the women’s basketball landscape in the OUA.
Windsor, Lakehead split weekend set
All good things must come to an end and for the Lakehead Thunderwolves this weekend, that good thing was their winning streak.
The eighth-ranked Thunderwolves played host to the Windsor Lancers for a pair of games as the push for the OUA postseason continued to heat up. Lakehead sat alone in first place in the West Division through 12 games with a record of 11-1, putting them two points ahead of the McMaster Marauders. The Lancers, meanwhile, came into the weekend in third place with a record of 7-5. It appears to be a two-team race for top spot in the division, but anything can happen down the stretch.
Lakehead boasts the OUA’s top scorer and rebounder in Leashja Grant (Nassau, Bahamas), and Grant had her talents on full display on Friday night in the first meeting between the T’Wolves and Lancers. Grant went for 26 points, 11 rebounds, two assists, and four steals to help guide Lakehead to the 54-50 win over Windsor to kick off the weekend and extend their conference winning streak to eight games.
Windsor, however, almost pulled off the upset thanks to a big fourth quarter. The Lancers came into the final frame down 11 points, but outscored the Thunderwolves by a 22-15 margin over the last 10 minutes to make things interesting. A pair of free throws from Samantha Gucciardi (Vaughan, Ont.) with under a minute left brought the Lancers to within three points, at 53-50, but they couldn’t complete the comeback.
The next night was a different story for the Lancers.
After playing from behind on Friday night, Windsor seized control of Saturday’s game in the first quarter and played with the lead for most of the contest. The Lancers led by four at the break before outscoring the Thunderwolves by a 22-11 margin in the third quarter to take full control of the contest. When the final buzzer sounded, Windsor earned a split over the weekend with a 72-58 win on the road at Lakehead.
Eve Uwayesu (Ottawa, Ont.) led the way with 17 points for Windsor, who improves to 8-6 on the season. Gucciardi had 11 points and six rebounds, with Kaylee Anagnostopoulos (Waterloo, Ont.) narrowly missing a double-double with eight points and 11 rebounds.
Windsor also held Grant to just 10 points, on 4-of-11 shooting, and 10 rebounds for the Thunderwolves. Hometown guard Karissa Kajorinne (Thunder Bay, Ont.) had a game-high 21 points to go along with five assists in the loss.
Lakehead is now one of four teams in the OUA with 24 points on the season.
Western halts losing streak with weekend sweep of Algoma
For the first time since the 27th of October, the Western Mustangs found their way into the win column this past weekend.
In their second game of the season, the Mustangs knocked off the Laurier Golden Hawks in overtime, 68-65, behind a 27-point outing from Julia Curran (Waterloo, Ont.). The victory was the Mustangs’ lone win for more than two months on the year. Having gone without a win on their home court this season, Western welcomed the Algoma Thunderbirds to town this past weekend with the hopes of ending their lengthy losing streak.
When the dust settled, the Mustangs turned their losing streak into a two-game winning streak by way of two close wins over the T’Birds. The wins pushed Western’s record to 2-1 on their current five-game home stand.
Friday night saw the Mustangs take a nine-point lead into the fourth quarter, only to have Algoma launch a comeback attempt that would eventually fall just short. Western led the Thunderbirds by a 52-43 margin heading into the final frame and held on for the 70-67 win.
Down the stretch, Western bent but never broke as they maintained their lead throughout the entire fourth quarter. After Karly Fracalanza (Sarnia, Ont.) kicked off the fourth quarter with a three-pointer to give the Thunderbirds a boost of momentum, Emma Johnson (Saskatoon, Sask.) responded with a deep ball of her own on the next possession to restore Western’s nine-point lead.
Both teams would trade baskets as the quarter wound down, but Algoma never seriously threatened the Mustangs’ lead. A last-second three ball from Aimee Garland (Winnipeg, Man.) cut the deficit to three points at the buzzer, but regardless, Western came away with the win.
First-year guard Brett Fischer (Wallaceburg, Ont.) led all Mustang players on the night with 15 points to go along with 10 rebounds. The pair of Johnson and Laura Graham (Sudbury, Ont.) had 14 points apiece to help end Western’s losing skid.
Saturday night was more of the same for the Mustangs and Thunderbirds. It was another closely-contested battle between the two teams, one that was low scoring but still provided excitement as Algoma looked to come back once more in the final frame. Western held a six-point lead after three quarters but the Thunderbirds were unable to come away with a win and the Mustangs swept the weekend with a 51-45 decision.
Over the final 10 minutes of the game, Western once again resisted the strong push. Algoma did what they could to try and cut into the lead, but they weren’t able to trim the deficit to fewer than four points over the course of the quarter. A pair of free throws from Curran in the final minute sealed the deal for Western.
Graham was at the forefront again on offence for Western, scoring a team-high 15 points in the win. Off the bench, Curran recorded six points to go along with 13 rebounds and four steals.
After losing 10 straight games, the Mustangs are now 3-11 on the year and are within two points of the four teams who are currently tied for fifth in the West. The Mustangs will conclude their homestand this coming weekend with contests against both the Waterloo Warriors and Guelph Gryphons.
Kaitlyn Overeem is (already) a star in the OUA
Forget being a future star in the league; first-year guard Kaitlyn Overeem (Brantford, Ont.) is already a star in the OUA.
The Waterloo Warriors are a young team this season with nine first-year players on their roster. With little returning from last year in terms of production on both ends of the floor, the Warriors needed somebody to step up and take on a starring role to lead the team.
At first glance of their roster, the candidates that many would have pegged to assume the role would have come from their small pool of veterans. Instead, it has been Overeem, a 5’7’’ guard who is majoring in Kinesiology. The native of Brantford, Ont. has taken the league by storm this season with her strong two-way play and production that has been among the league-leaders over the course of the year on both sides of the ball.
Through 14 games, Overeem ranks 14th in the conference in scoring, averaging 13.3 points per game on 30.3% shooting from the floor and 75.3% shooting from the free throw line. Overeem has reached double-digit points in nine league games to date, and she put together a string of six straight double-digit performances from November 17 through to January 9. Over that six-game stretch, Overeem averaged 17.2 points per game and had a pair of 20-point performances to her name.
Overeem ranks fifth in the conference in terms of total minutes and minutes per game. She averages 34.3 minutes per night out and has amassed 480 minutes of court time this season. A heavy workload is challenging for veterans, let alone first-year players, but Overeem has been up to the challenge and has been thriving as of late with the Warriors.
Against Algoma back on January 5, Overeem picked up the first double-double of her OUA career in a narrow 53-50 loss. She went for 14 points and 12 rebounds in the loss. Earlier this year, Overeem flirted with a triple-double in a 15-point win over the Nipissing Lakers. That night, Overeem finished with 25 points, eight rebounds, and eight assists to help guide Waterloo to the win.
Turnovers have been an issue at times, and her three-point shooting percentage isn’t something to write home about, but one can’t forget that Overeem is still a first-year student-athlete in the OUA. As her game continues to improve on both ends of the floor, both of those areas of concern will correct themselves and improve with each passing game and year. However, the numbers that Overeem has put up to this point of her first season with the Warriors are worth talking about.