HAMILTON, ON – As the OUA regular season winds down, the McMaster Marauders basketball teams continued to jostle for playoff seeding in the OUA West division.
The women’s team bounced back from their 50-28 loss on Mar. 2 in Waterloo to the Warriors with a much-improved offensive performance on Mar. 4 at home against the same opponent. However, they would still fall short 72-69.
Meanwhile, the men’s team won their third straight game, including two in a row against the Warriors, to move into sole position of second in the OUA West.
Marauders Women Return to Form but Come Up Short
The women’s team was missing leading scorer Sarah Gates after she sustained an injury against the Windsor Lancers the previous week. Against Waterloo on Mar. 2, her absence was felt as the Marauders shot a total of 5 for 57 from the field and 1 for 30 from three. The game was close at halftime – with the Warriors ahead 18-12 – but as the road side continued to miss shots and turn the ball over, Waterloo’s lead grew.
On Friday, as the Marauders celebrated their Pride Game (with videos and speakers including guard Mia Spadafora), it was a different story. McMaster started strong offensively as guard Jenna Button turned defence into offence with a fast break layup to open the scoring. The three ball started to fall for them as Arianne Soriano, Tori Rigas-Didomenico and Amy Stinson all knocked them down early.
The improved offensive output came from their posts as well, with Clare Sharkey, Pietra Kamstra and Cassandra Joli-Coeur. Hope College transfer and centre Alissa Smith saw the court as well, chipping in with two steals and a rebound. Meanwhile, first-year guard Daully Patterson saw her first game action of the year.
The Marauders returned to the style of play they’ve been consistent with during the season – pushing the ball up the court, hounding perimeter defence from the guards, moving the ball, finding open cutters and hitting threes.
Stinson – who led the team with 15 points and four steals – shot well from beyond the arc (three-for-seven) after going scoreless from the field on Wednesday. In one sequence, she stole the ball from her defender, passed the ball ahead, on the ensuing fast break, sprinted to the corner and hit a three-pointer.
Button’s play was notable again as the second-year Dundas native continued her strong recent play with her perimeter defence (including three steals), ability to score on the fast break and move the ball up the court and transition and score from different parts of the floor.
Despite the Marauders efforts as they built up and kept the lead for most of the game, the Warriors didn’t back down. Waterloo keep the game close, with big games from their two third-year guards Kaitlyn Overeem (11 points, five assists) and Vanessa Hughes (14 points) as well as forward Maddy Adams (a double-double with 20 points and 10 rebounds).
Keeping the game close in the fourth, the Warriors made their comeback down 66-61. Overeem hit two free throws and Adams scored six straight points. After McMaster seemed to have the final possession, Adams stole the ball, passed it to Hughes who found Beth Howlett running towards the McMaster basket. Howlett scored through the contact, adding a free throw to secure the victory as her teammates mobbed her. With the win, the Warriors clinched their first playoff appearance since 2008.
Marauders Men Continue Building Momentum with Versatility
The McMaster men’s team had gotten into a run of close games as of late, with five of their last six games before Friday coming within six or less points. They earned a 91-86 road win two nights earlier, with a balanced attack offsetting notable performances from the Warriors’ Justin Malneric (36 points) and Nedim Hodzic (23 points, 10 rebounds).
McMaster got off to a fast start on Friday, attacking inside early and often. Second-year guard Mychael Paulo helped set the tone early, scoring inside the paint, from jumpers and from beyond the arc. He finished the night with a team-high 17 points as well as one block and one steal.
Paulo had plenty of help with guard Jordan Henry in his usual playmaking and scoring role. Henry shot two-for-four from three and got to the line numerous times. Mike Demagus had another solid outing as part of his standout season, scoring from different parts of the court.
With starting centre Ayres Culley-Bremner out for this game, fellow posts Nick Fambegbe and Nathan Charles stepped up with their post presence on offence and defence. Charles in particular had a standout game, with 16 points and a career-high 14 rebounds off the bench. They held Hodzic to only two points in 14 minutes of action. Meanwhile Malnerich only scored five points.
The Warriors main contributors came from their guards in first-year Reuben Hasebenebi (13 points, four rebounds), fourth-year vet Jayden Grewal (10 points, four assists) and first-year Josh Akuamoah (13 points, two steals).
The Marauders versatility was on display with the scoring depth, with wing players and versatile guards able to score inside and outside. It also provides more flexibility in guarding opponent guards and wings. Henry, Paulo, Demagus, guard Sefa Otchere and others embody that versatility. McMaster was also able to capitalize on their steals and disruptive perimeter defence, turning them into two flush down dunks by Paulo and Charles.
The Playoff Picture
With only a home-and-home against the Laurier Golden Hawks left on their schedule, the Marauders’ playoff seeding hangs in the balance. Both teams have clinched a playoff spot already.
The women’s team – which sits fifth in their division – will likely have to win both games against Laurier and hope Waterloo loses one out of their last two games against Lakehead to jump out up to fourth and get that home playoff berth. Regardless, Waterloo and McMaster seem to be the most likely first-round match up for each other.
On the men’s side, the final two games are crucial as Laurier is the team right behind them in the OUA West, one win below. The Marauders will need to win at least one of their last two games to clinch second place in the division, which would give them a bye into the quarterfinals. If Laurier wins both, they would take the second seed.
Featured Image: Courtney Caird/Waterloo Athletics