Crazy Couple of Critelli Cup Contests: 2017 OUA Women’s Basketball Semifinals Recap

And exhale.

There were two fantastic Critelli Cup semifinal games on Friday night at Queen’s University’s Athletic & Recreation Centre, in Kingston, ON.

Now, nearly five hours later, the championship game is set, and the ever-so-important bronze medal game is on deck tomorrow night.

Here’s my recap from the semifinals of the 2017 OUA Women’s Basketball Championship.

Semifinal #1 | Windsor Lancers (4) vs. Queen’s Gaels (1):

An electrifying crowd of 1,104 OUA women’s basketball fans filled the ARC for the hometown Queen’s Gaels’ semifinal game against the Windsor Lancers, the opening game of the 2017 Critelli Cup Final Four.

There was so much on the line for both teams. For Windsor, a chance to avenge last season’s semifinal loss to the eventual Final Four-winning Ryerson Rams, which ended their five-year reign over the Bronze Baby trophy. For Queen’s, a guaranteed berth at Nationals and the chance to hoist the Critelli Cup on home floor on Saturday.

The Gaels’ fifth-year star Emily Hazlett made her presence known early, quickly scoring eight points in the first quarter.

“This is something we’ve been working toward all year,” Hazlett told the media after the win. “Now that we have the chance to win the Critelli Cup tomorrow at home and then move on to try and win the Bronze Baby; everyone is just excited.”

Photo Credit: Queen’s Gaels / Ontario University Athletics

Despite Windsor opening the scoring, Queen’s took over and lead the game 17-13 after the opening period, off Hazlett’s strong start. Lancer superstar Emily Prevost had a sluggish start, only going 1-of-3 from the field.

Two minutes into the second frame Windsor guard Kaylee Anagnostopoulos picked up her third foul, just twelve minutes into the game, forcing her to the bench. Tyra Blizzard stepped up in her absence, helping lead the Lancer charge back to parity, as Prevost’s rebound-quarter of nine points helped tie the game at 32’s at the half.

Heading into the break, OUA Coach of the Year Dave Wilson told CUSN Radio 1 about the difficulty of containing the Windsor offence.

“They have such a good front court and excellent three-point shooters,” said the Gaels bench boss said of the Lancers. “It forces us to cover everywhere on the floor.”

The third quarter was full of a back and fourth struggle, with Queen’s grabbing a two-point advantage after a half an hour of basketball. It was in the fourth quarter where Hazlett and her Gaels teammates ran away with the game.

Windsor’s foul trouble nearly silenced OUA legend Chantal Vallée—something that fans and people close to the sport know is not an easy thing to do—forcing her to rely much more heavily on her bench than she surely would have liked. Emily Prevost fouling out with forty seconds left to play in the fourth was the final blow, as the Gaels won the joust with Windsor with an emphatic 14-8 final quarter.

After the game, a very tired but very excited Emily Hazlett spoke to the media.

Hazlett finished with a terrific, game-high line of 22 points, six rebounds, five assists, and two steals. She and the rest of her Gaels squad will battle for their first OUA title since 2000-2001 tomorrow, with the tip-off of the Critelli Cup, Gold Medal Game taking place at 8:00 PM EST

Semifinal #2 | McMaster Marauders (3) vs. Carleton Ravens (2):

As much as I was looking forward to the Queen’s vs. Windsor showdown, this was the one I had been looking forward to all week. It featured two unbelievably dangerous teams, that are built so differently, going head to head.

Anytime in the playoffs when the two middle seeds meet, there’s a good chance you are going to be treated to an incredible game, regardless of the sport. Despite the sluggish start for McMaster, they really turned it on in the second half.

Heading into the break with an eight-point cushion, Ravens head coach Taffe Charles spoke about the mismatch that helped his team to their lead.

“It’s a matchup we wanted to exploit,” said Charles of the battle of the posts in a halftime interview with CUSN Radio 1. “They know we have the matchup there, and that’s where we’re getting a lot of our offence. They’re doing a better job taking it away from us, but we just gotta make that second and third pass, and second and third cut, and if we can do that we’ll be successful.”

The Ravens must not have received the message in the locker room, because they came out flat in the third quarter. McMaster’s posts stepped up on defence, and the OUA Player and Defensive Player of the Year, Danielle Boiago went on a 13-point run. By the end of the third quarter, she had nearly single-handedly brought the score down to 40-39 for the Marauders.

The epitome of Carleton’s slowly-slipping grip of the game came when Stephanie Carr got called for the weirdest technical I have ever seen. After chasing down a loose ball, Carr grabbed hold of it under the Marauders’ net but her forward momentum caused her to step out of bounds. Frustrated with herself, she slammed the ball down on the floor in disgust and was immediately tee’d up. Despite her trying to explain to the official she was only mad at herself, McMaster got the free throw and the possession.

Carleton stepped up the pressure in the fourth, and Boiago’s dominance of the game began to fade, as her shots stopped falling. Without much help from the rest of the Marauders on the offensive side of the ball, aside from Linnaea Harper’s near-dagger three with 2:30 left to play, Carleton was able to stay  one-point up for most of the second halfm as the game neared its epic finish.

Before we could eclipse the two minute mark of the fourth, disaster may have struck the Carleton Ravens.

The very next play after the Harper-three, Ravens point guard Jenjen Abella’s knee gave way on her way up the floor. She was able to somehow dribble over the halfway line, before collapsing to the ground in a heap. She was carried to the bench, and was unable to put much weight on the knee. She’d leave the ARC on crutches after the game.

McMaster lead 54-53 heading into the last minute of play, where  a Heather Lindsay jump shot followed by a big time block on the other side of the floor, set up the wild finish.

Marauders head coach Theresa Burns called a timeout with 0:27 on the clock to draw up what they hoped would be the game-winning play. After the inbound, Carleton smothered Boiago as the seconds began to tick down. With four seconds left, the ball ended up in the hands of Rachael Holmes who pulled up a three at the buzzer for the win, but it was off-target, and the Ravens grabbed the rebound, before being fouled with 0.7 to play.

A Taffee timeout let Carleton draw up the inbound play that sealed the deal, seeing the Ravens through to Saturday’s championship game, and a bunch of booked tickets to Victoria.