McMaster Marauders gave famed head coach Theresa Burns a moment 26 years in the making: The program’s first women’s national basketball championship.
Linnaea Harper captured the tournament’s most valuable player honours and scored 18 points while securing 10 rebounds as the No.2 ranked Mac upset top ranked Laval 70-58 in the finals on Sunday night at the Mattamy Centre.
Harper sealed the deal for the Marauders with an off-balance learner with her left hand, making the game 62-54 with just 1:20 left to play.
“When Linnaea hit that shot, oh my God, at that point I knew for sure” said teammate Christina Buttenham afterwards. “I looked at the score and the time left, and as long as we played defence and didn’t let them hit threes, this was our game.”
Buttenham scored 13 points and racked up nine boards in the victory. Sarah Gates scored 18, while fifth year guard Hilary Hanaka had 12 in her last game as a Marauder.
When Buttenham scored the hoop and the harm, mid-way through the fourth quarter, the WNBA player, and Canadian basketball icon, Kia Nurse, leapt to her feet, out of her courtside seat.
“Having someone as big as her in the basketball community out here supporting us, and after growing up playing with her, it’s so special seeing her on the sidelines,” said Buttenham.
Sarah-Jane Marois scored a game high 21 points for the Rouge-et-Or.
Marois was dialed-in during the second quarter, scoring back-to-back threes to extend Laval’s lead to seven points; their largest lead in the first half. Despite being unable to make a basket in the first quarter, the point guard piled in 13 during the second on five-of-five shooting.
The second half made the difference.
The National Championship trophy, affectionately known as The Bronze Baby, is familiar to Coach Burns. Although it was the first time she made finals as a coach, Burns was able to hoist the trophy as an athlete for the Toronto Varsity Blues in 1986.
For the championship athlete and coach, Burns believes she now has a better idea about the hard work and the implications of the title.
“Both were equally good, both unbelievably amazing. I just think as a coach you probably have a different layer of understanding of how difficult it is to get here,” said Burns, with a grin. “I think the players know, but when you’re a coach and you’re dealing with all the factors and all the variables, you understand how hard it is to get here,”.
Khaleann Caron-Goudreau, of Laval was dominant on the glass, scoring 10 while battling for 12 boards.
Harper came out of the locker room with a ton of energy on the second half, scoring a corner three on the first possession, then immediately stole the ball off an inbound, and recorded an assist, bringing the game to 47-42.
The Marauders never looked back.