Kingston, ON- A day after a close loss to Winnipeg in the national semi-finals, the Queen’s Gaels rebounded to make history and win their first ever nationals medal in front of a lively home crowd at the Queen’s ARC.
“I’m really proud of what we did,” Queen’s head coach Claire Meadows noted. “We played our best three games of the season back-to-back-to-back and this weekend and to do it on our home court makes it even sweeter.”
They shot well from the field against Winnipeg and carried over their strong play against Brock. The Gaels shot 31.4 per cent from the field.
The Gaels started off strong pushing the pace and hitting from outside. An early three point shot from point guard Emma Ritcey gave them a 9-6 lead. Meanwhile, post Sophie de Goede was scoring down low.
The home side continued to extend their lead – much to the delight of the home crowd – late in the first. Michelle Istead hit a jump shot to give them a 26-12 lead to end the first quarter.
Brock made their push in the second with guards Victoria Lawrence, Ivana Twumasi pushing the ball up the floor and driving to the lane. Lawrence hit a jumper to cut it to 32-30 but that was as close as the Badgers would get.
Things started opening up in the second half for Queen’s as they shared the ball well, leading to open shots for its shooters. Second-year guard Isabella Belvedere was one of the players who hit their threes. The Bolton native went six for 12 from deep as part of her game-high 22 points. She was named Queen’s player of the game afterwards.
Brock’s Jenneke Pilling nailed a three at the end of the third quarter to cut the lead down to 54-45 but the Gaels would pull away in the fourth. Queen’s continued to share the ball, grab offensive rebounds and defend well to clinch the 75-57 win and the program’s first-ever medal at nationals.
As the clock hit zero, the players from the bench went onto the court to mob their teammates. In the post-game media scrums, there was a similar level of excitement as players came out with their bronze medals on their necks.
Meadows called the nationals medal a big step forward for them. “We’ve always known and believed we were a good team,” she added. “We knew coming into this tournament we could compete and we could contend and we proved ourselves. So, if anything, it just was a statement to who we are as a team.”
Belvedere called it a great feeling to win the bronze and called the team’s nationals experience a special run. The Gaels knocked off defending champion Saskatchewan before falling to Winnipeg and then beating Brock. She added the nationals experience will drive them going forward.
“It just means that we have a special program,” Belvedere added. “We’ve definitely been doubted a bit in the past so I think it just means proving ourselves and proving to myself that I’m able to compete with the best of the best.”
For de Goede, it marks the end of a remarkable final year at Queen’s which also includes a first-ever U Sports women’s rugby title this past fall. “I’m just so grateful for everyone that’s helped me along this journey,” she said. She credited her teammates, coaches and others.
“Literally every single person I’ve met at this school has been nothing but supportive,” she continued. “It genuinely takes a village and I’m just so grateful to have come to this village and be a part of this community.”
Featured Image: James Paddle-Grant/U Sports