TORONTO, ON – A lot happened over the last while but importantly OUA basketball has officially returned. Let’s look at the top six teams from each division and see what we know about each group going into the season’s final stretch.
First, The East.
Sitting at 10-0 in first is the Rams, who appear to be getting stronger and stronger. On Wednesday, February 9th, they returned with a home game against the York Lions, and it didn’t look like they lost a step. Kaillie Hall is making plays all over the court, Jama Bin-Edward is making more and more of an impact as she plays more since returning from injury. They are one of the top teams in the OUA. For a team that made the OUA championship in 2020 and qualified as the Wild Card for that year’s National Championship, there’s nothing to say they won’t make another similar run. They certainly have the personnel to do it. They’ve got the Varsity Blues up next on their schedule, and they’ve got the depth and momentum on their side.
Sitting 2nd in the east is the Ottawa Gee-Gees at 7-2. They are led by Brigitte Lefebvre-Okankwu, one of the star players in the nation who recently surpassed 1000 career points and 500 career rebounds. They are a very well-built team with players that know how to execute with few mistakes. With guards like Natsuki Szczokin leading the charge, they’ve got the depth to make a run late into the playoffs, where fans are used to seeing this team. Whether it’s feeding the ball inside to Melina De Iulio, Oksana Gouchie-Provencher or Brigitte, having Natsuki knock down a triple or run the pick-and-roll, the Gee-Gees have many ways to punish their opponent.
The Carleton Ravens are 3rd in the division sitting at 7-2. With a loss at the hands of the York Lions and Laurentian Voyageurs, the Ravens have hit a couple of bumps in their road, but the talent on their roster gives you the thought that all it takes is a little momentum. They are a multi-faceted beast on the offensive end. They have 5-7 players on their roster who demand equal respect as a scorer, and they can put some real stress on defences. The speed of Kali Pocrnic, the shooting of Madison Reid, the ability for Dorcas Busia and Tatyanna Burke to find their spot for quick opportunities and the presence of Emma Kiesekamp inside the paint begs the question as a coach, “who do you play off of?” and “are you sure they won’t punish you?”
They have been beaten on the boards by matched physicality or teams with the size advantage, but there is plenty to show they know how to play around that. While they sit 3rd in the division, the Ravens shouldn’t be slept on as a team that can chain together a few wins at the right time and surprise some people.
The fourth team in the east is the Laurentian Voyageurs at 6-4. They are a team that people who are fans of old-school, pound the paint basketball, should pay attention to. They find a lot of their success in the painting. They win the battle on the boards with their size, they slow down the pace and find their spots around the rim, and they smother teams with their half-court defence. In the games they’ve won, it’s been because of their interior defence. They get their opponent into foul trouble and physically wear down the other team. The Tabin sisters and Helena Lamoureux can play high-low with many teams, and they force opponents to have to send a double team, opening up the ability to hit a three, which they can though it isn’t their primary focus. They’re an exciting team to follow this season and whether their slow physical approach will be able to keep up with the fast pace of other teams late in the season is a very intriguing question.
Sitting in fifth is the York Lions. They’re 5-5 and are a strong rebounding team keeping with the York tradition of the past 5+ years. They currently sit 7th in the OUA in rebounds per game, 3rd in offensive rebounds, and much of that has to do with Lauren Golding and Cyanna King, who sit 5th and 6th in the OUA in the rebounding category. They have become stalwarts of the Lions team led by young guards in Kirsten McGrath and Jada Codrington, and they’ve been doing their part all season long. The Lions have some work on their offensive consistency if they want to compete with the top teams in their division, but they have set the foundation.
The team currently sitting in the final playoff spot is the Queen’s Gaels at 5-3. They are a serious contender in the OUA, and their three losses shouldn’t sway you as they come close at the hands of the top two teams in the division, the Rams twice and Gee-Gees once. They are a high-powered team with weapons all around the floor. The Women’s Rugby national player of the year, Sophie De Goede, handles things inside the paint and Julia Chadwick, who sits top five in the OUA in points and rebounds per game. They have four guards in Michelle Instead, Laura Donovan, Emma Ritcey and Emma Weltz, who can all make you pay from deep or facilitate the ball like the best of them. They are going to put up points, and they’re going to make you fight for every rebound with their size and physicality, making them a very tough team to beat on any given night.