U Sports Basketball(W): Critelli Cup Preview, Brock Badgers edition

St.Catherines, ON- Yesterday we spoke about the Ryerson Rams women’s basketball team and how they got to this point. Today, we focus on the Brock Badgers, who are also in the final of the Critelli Cup. The Badgers have been a decent team throughout the last few years, however, the realignment of the OUA aided them this season as they have made an exceptional run to the final.

How did they get here?

It was not just Ryerson who had a close call in the semi-final, the Brock Badgers did as well. The Rams were supposed to beat the Gee-Gees, however, the same could not be said for the badgers who were up against the Western Mustangs.

The Badgers, who are ranked sixth in the country toppled the Mustangs on Western’s home court by only four points. It’s fair to say, that this game will go down as one of the biggest wins in Brock basketball history.

Like Ryerson, the Badgers efforts were spearheaded by OUA All-Stars Melissa Tatti and Samantha Keltos, the former having captured the conference’s top scorer title. Off the floor, head coach Mike Rao was also awarded the OUA’s top coach. Those two players each scored 17 points, nearly half of Brock’s total.

Tatti, who is the leader of the team while also being a senior spoke the media after the game saying, “This program has faced a lot of ups and downs in the past couple of years, so it is pretty sweet,” before continuing on to say, “Something has clicked the last few games where we just want it more than the other team, we don’t care who’s scoring, and we’re playing tough defence. I never doubted that we could win games because of our talent, but the heart this team has is something of a championship team.”

While Ryerson had the video of the team celebrating, Brock clearly also has a similar team identity which has gotten them to this point.

Brock Badgers players to watch:

It is pretty easy to pick the players to watch in the final. Between the two teams, there are four all-star selections, a single member of the all-rookie team and the coach of the year. It’s fair to say that there is a lot of skill that will be on show between the two sides.

Melissa Tatti:

Melissa Tatti with her teammates (Brock Badgers Athletics)

On brock, the players that have to be highlighted are Melissa Tatti and Samantha Keltos. Tatti has long been the leader of the Brock team and has once again been their offensive anchor in her final season. She earned the award for player of the year and was named to the OUA first all-star team for the first time in her career. She has been named to lower-ranked all-star selections before but has never torn up the OUA like she has this season.

Some numbers to focus on are her total points and total playing time. She is a durable player. She has not had any time on the bench in the last nine games, with her last time not playing full 40 minutes coming on January 25th, against OUA debutees, the Ontario Tech Ridgebacks. There is no doubt that she will play the whole game again. Another thing to keep an eye on his her points per game, which were the atop the OUA as the only player above 18. She is a very important player for the Badgers, and against a high powered team such as ryerson, her performance will only be magnified.

Samantha Keltos:

Image result for samantha keltos
(Brock Badgers Athletics)

It’s not fair to call her the next generation, but she is going to be the most important piece on the Brock roster for years to come. The junior has been a crucial part of their team this year and will continue to do so in years to come. Keltos averaged 12 points per game int eh regular season en route to being named to the all-star team. While her average is solid, it is certainly helped from her last performance on Ryerson’s home court. She posted a season-high of 23 points back in January against the Rams, which also tied her career-high. Between Tatti and Keltos, they are going to be very important players to focus on for the Ryerson defence, however, the way that Keltos punished Ryerson last time should earn her more defensive attention.

The OUA coach of the year: Mike Rao

Mike Rao is the 2019-20 OUA Coach of the Year (The Brock News)

it ‘s only his second year coaching a women’s basketball team, and also his second year in U Sport, but brock Badgers head coach Mike Rao has already earned himself a coach of the year honour. Prior to the season, he signed a three-year extension with the Badergs women’s program, despite openly wanting to coach a men’s U Sports teams. Formerly a high school coach, Rao came out of retirement to coach the lady Badgers and has not disappointed.

He was involved with the team three years ago, but assume the head position just last season where he led the Badgers to the playoffs and helped the players mentioned above reach their largest potential. This year he has brought the team to another level. A Brock alum himself, Rao combines his skill of coaching with a deep passion for the school, something that is rare to find for coaches who have not been involved with a school for very long.

This season, he made the Badgers a common sight in the U Sports weekly top 10, something which has never been seen in the history of the program. His tutelage of players and implemented tactics will come under the microscope in the Critelli Cup final, as he looks to lead the Badgers to their first-ever championship.

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