The McMaster Marauders women’s basketball team made history on Thursday, qualifying for their first Championship birth in USPORTS history.
Linnaea Harper scored 14 points with 10 boards and seven assists as the Marauders defeated the third ranked Saskatchewan Huskies 73-66 in the semi-finals.
They will face Laval University on Sunday night for the national championship at the Mattamy Centre, in Toronto.
The fifth year forward stuffed the stat sheet by also securing four steals while adding two blocks in the historic effort.
All the goods on #McMaster advancing to the #USports women's final for the first time in program history https://t.co/GmVbtm1luE #HamOnt #Marauders #OUA #Canada 🇨🇦 #Basketball 🏀 pic.twitter.com/rDo5Bockxy
— Justin Dunk (@JDunk12) March 10, 2019
Harper executed on two free throws near the end of the fourth quarter, to ensure the victory for the Marauders.
“I think there’s obviously a bit of nerves but I have confidence,” said Burns. “I know I can make free throws, it’s just another free throw, that’s what you have to remind yourself,”.
The support of McMaster fans was evident, as the sea of maroon highlighted the crowd. Head Coach Theresa Burns also mentioned that she had received a plethora of support from Mac’s basketball alumni who texted and emailed her.
“We told the players before the game that we’d had a million texts, messages and e-mails from our alumni because it was exactly 29 years ago today that one of our bronze medal teams was in Toronto in their semi-final game,” said Burns.
Part of the support came from Kia Nurse, WNBA star for the New York Liberty and Canadian basketball icon. Nurse divulged her allegiance for McMaster because of her history of playing with members of the Marauders as well family ties to the university.
“You’ve got to go with family, and Christina Buttenham and Hilary Hanaka and Erin Burns, those are all family. They’re a big reason why I am where I am today. So I got a lot of loyalty for Mac,” said Nurse. “It’s where I know people, and [where] my mom went, so it’s absolutely incredible to see them playing the way they do.”
Nurse sat court side while watching McMaster break Coach Burns’ 26 year curse.
“They just made history tonight. This is the best team that McMaster’s ever had,” said Burns. “These women just made history and I’m so proud of them.”
The game meant a lot to Burns as it was her first semi-final victory in the tournament. Also, the victory came against Lisa Thomaidis, a former McMaster player, who is now head coach for the University of Saskatchewan.
McMaster’s Sarah Gates was dialed in offensively for the Marauders, scoring a team-high 21 points, 16 of which came in the first half. Hilary Hanaka chipped 19 points with three trifectas as well as three assists in the victory.
The game was tied at half, as Saskatchewan went on a run near the end of the second quarter.
The third quarter was all McMaster. Led by their veterans, the Marauders scored 26 in the frame, and took a 12 point lead into fourth quarter.
Despite mounting a courageous come-back in the final quarter, the closest Saskatchewan came, was within four points.
Saskatchwan’s Summer Masikewich was the driving force for the Huskies, piling on 21 points with 12 rebounds and three assists. Summer, who has represented Canada at a national level, receives high praise from her coach.
“She’s been tremendous. She comes to the gym everyday with a smile on her face, but with a work ethic to get better,” said Thomaidis. “From first year to third year, she’s just taken it to a whole new dimension,”.
In the second semi final match-up, Sarah- Jane Marois led the No.1 ranked Laval to a championship birth over the No. 4 ranked Ottawa, scoring 20 points, including two clutch free throws with less than a minute left.
Marois also added three assists and a block on her in the winning effort.
Sarah-Jane Marois named @rougeetor's player of the game for the second straight match, helping Laval win 60-56 over @uOttawaGeeGees to advance to tomorrow's gold medal game. Marois notched 20 points on 7/11 FG and 5/5 FT. #onpoint @DrewEbanks pic.twitter.com/42FCAbhCYO
— Trung Ho (@trungho) March 10, 2019
Marois pushed the pace early in the matchup, accounting for six points in the first five minutes of the contest. Most of Laval’s points early in the game came in transition, with Marois acting as the maestro for the offence.
The matchup between Angela Ribarich of the Gee-Gees and Khaleanne Caron-Goudreau was a sight to see, with two of the powerful players in the tournament going toe-to-toe.
The physical battle between the 6-foot-5 Ribarich and the 6-foot-3 Caron-Goudreau began as soon as the game started.
Caron-Goudreau simply denied access to the paint, accumulating an astronomical total of nine blocks and ten boards.
Brigette Lefebvre-Okankwu had the hot hand in the first half, scoring 11 of the Gee-Gee’s 23 first half points. The second year forward ended the game with a double-double, scoring 17 while bringing in 10 boards.
Laval will be looking to spoil McMaster’s parade, by taking home the trophy on Sunday night. Giroux knows it’s going to be a tough, hard fought battle, and it will come down to whoever has more heart.
“At the end everyone is banged up, everyone is tired, everyone is going to be [relying on] honour and fight and you’ve got to win for your program, you’ve got to win your university, you’ve got to win for yourself, said Giroux. “It’s going to be who wants it the most and who can execute better,”.