After four quarters of lead changes, missed shots, and physical play, the Varsity Blues women’s basketball team fell 48–44 Friday night to the visiting Carleton Ravens, who are ranked sixth in Canada.
The game was of special interest to the Blues, since the Ravens crushed Toronto’s playoff hopes last year in the OUA semi-finals.
“For the returning players, there’s always some rivalry. Personally, I didn’t forget it,” said Amanda Lauzon, who finished the game with nine points and 13 rebounds, and who sits third in the province in rebounds per game.
Friday’s game was the Blues second game of the year, following their earlier 62–57 win over the Queen’s Gaels.
“We had a four game losing streak going, and to get that break [over the holidays], and get back on the right page, it was really important,” noted Liane Bailey, who finished the game against Carleton with four rebounds and 14 points. “And the way we won [against Queen’s] it was really good too, we played awesome defense. We’re on the rise.”
Following their victory over the Gaels, Toronto was confident and energized going into the game against Carleton, but it was the Ravens who were able to take the early lead.
Blues fouls and missed shots combined to allow Carleton to go up by as many as six points — a significant lead in what was a low-scoring game. Both teams were having trouble scoring in the first quarter, with field goal percentages under 30, and Carleton making only 17 per cent of their free throws. Midway through the quarter, as Carleton was pulling away, the Blues called a time-out. The break appeared to calm the team and Toronto fought back to gain the momentum and end the quarter with a 10–8 lead.
“[Carleton] started off the game really hard, we called a time out, and I think we settled down and matched their physicality which was very good,” said Blues head coach Michelle Belanger.
In addition to their hard-won advantage, the first quarter also marked the return of Blues player, and former OUA first team all-star, Jill Stratton. Stratton was returning from a severe concussion suffered during a game in late 2012, and finished Friday’s game with two points and one rebound.
“We were all really excited for her to be back, because she’s one of the most important players on our team, she’s the face of our team really, and she’s been gone since pre-season and that’s a really long time,” said Bailey. “Obviously you can’t expect her to be a superstar first game back, but she’s great, so we know for the second half of the season we have our star back.”
In the second quarter, both teams had better offensive production, with Carleton more than tripling their first-quarter score. There were multiple lead changes, as the Blues strong defense worked to contain the Carleton offense. The Blues were plagued by missed shots, again allowing Carleton to pull away, but Toronto ended the quarter strong, closing Carleton’s lead to just four points.
At the start of the second half, down 27–23, Toronto was working to create opportunities, but could not seem to score. The Blues fought back to retake the lead, but continued to have issues converting on opportunities, and Carleton was able to finish the quarter with a two-point lead, up 37–35.
“The third quarter, we started some kids that we thought played very well in the first half,” said Belanger, “And they didn’t show us the energy we were expecting.”
Carleton widened the gap in the fourth quarter to six points, but the Blues worked hard, and managed to get within four with less than a minute left. Unfortunately, that was as close as Toronto would get. The Blues created opportunities for a tie, but were unable to make their field goals and free throws, as the game ended with a score of 48–44 for Carleton.
“Unfortunately tonight we came out on the losing end,” lamented Lauzon. “But if we could have made our foul shots, could have made our layups and our little bunnies, it could have been a different game.
“You can never be happy with a loss, but overall there were good moments that we’re building on, and hopefully the next time we play them at home, that’s about two or three weeks away, hopefully we can fix some things”.
Moving forwards, Bailey said the team is “feeling really good about our defensive stops and so now it’s about keeping that going, and [working on] getting some more baskets, and fixing our offense I guess, just building on what we’ve already got going.
“To be honest, the records don’t mean anything in the OUA. There’re always upsets.”