The University of Toronto Varsity Blues women’s basketball team came into their Friday night matchup against the Western Mustangs hoping for a better result than in their game against the Ottawa Gee Gees the previous weekend. At 8–6 on the season, the Mustangs promised to be a tough opponent for the Varsity Blues.

What happened

The Blues won the tip to start the game, and guard Faith Joseph went right at the Mustangs defense, attacking the rim and drawing a foul to open the scoring. On the other end, Blues guard Lauren Boers got the Blues going defensively with an emphatic block. They continued the aggressive play throughout the first quarter, which helped them keep the game close. The Mustangs opened up an early seven-point lead, but a flurry of three pointers from the Blues forward Thuraya Abdul Hamid and fourth-year guard Ellen Ougrinov cut this lead to three by the end of the first.

A three from Boers gave the Blues the lead back early in the second quarter, but the Mustangs tied the game up at 21 with seven minutes of the quarter remaining, and turnovers plagued both teams for the rest of the half. In a low scoring second quarter, Boers was crucial for the Blues offensively, hitting two threes and facilitating the offense. A quick five-point flurry from the Mustangs guard Ariane Saumure gave Western a 28–26 lead at halftime. Saumure led both teams with 14 points at halftime and was the driving cause behind the Mustangs lead. 

Gabby Reed opened the second half scoring for the Blues with a layup off a great pass from Ougrinov. Continued stellar play from the Mustangs guard Saumure kept Western ahead of the Blues during the third quarter. She proved too quick for the otherwise rock-solid Toronto defense. 

The Blues opened the fourth quarter with two beautifully worked plays leading to open layups, tying up the game. Great defense in the fourth quarter allowed a three from Joseph to cut the Mustangs lead to one point with 30 seconds left in the game. In a tragic ending, the Blues turned it over, down two points with 10 seconds left, allowing the Mustangs wing, Emily Capretta, to ice the game for the Mustangs from the free throw line. A buzzer beater three from Ougrinov inspired the crowd, but wasn’t enough to pull the Blues out of their four-point deficit. 

Despite the final score seeing the Blues fall 61–60 to the Mustangs, the team showed a lot of promise in the game on Friday night. In an interview with The Varsity, Boers said that “our focus going into all games is defense,” and highlighted that it “shows that we can play with any team.” The defensive intensity they showed Friday night helped them come as close as possible to beating a quality opponent in Western. Boers had 14 points and five rebounds on the night. 

What’s next

After their second loss of the weekend against the Windsor Lancers on January 28, the Blues will head on the road for their next game against the Brock Badgers on February 3. They’ll look to continue playing with the defensive intensity that gave them success against the Mustangs.