The Rams women’s basketball team played a complete game to win their program’s long-awaited first ever U SPORTS National Championship, as they beat the Winnipeg Wesmen 70-48 Sunday in Kingston.
The Rams used a swarming defensive effort to take 2022 U SPORTS Player of the Year Keylyn Filewich out of the equation, as the superstar forward only managed 9 field goal attempts in the final, with those 9 shots yielding just 10 total points.
It’s a championship a long time coming for a Rams program that has been one of the best in the country ever since they went 26-9 in 2015, but has been unable to capture that elusive gold.
“Pure joy,” was how head coach Carly Clarke described her state of mind after the win. “Obviously we’ve been working at this as a program for a while, but this group of players in particular has been really really special.”
And for a team that prided themselves on the defensive hashtag #RamsUnder50 all year, the defence showed up once again when the lights were the brightest. The Wesmen, who averaged 81 points per game in regular season play this year, were held to just 48 by a long and energetic Rams side.
“It starts with our defence,” said guard Kailie Hall after the game. “That’s something that’s carried us throughout the entire year, and whether it’s a championship game or the first game of the season, that’s something we’ve carried with us.”
The Rams were led by a balanced attack on the offensive side, but it was Rachel Farwell who led the way with 17 points, accompanied by 13 from Mikaela Dodig and 12 by Jama Bin-Edwards. Dodig and Bin-Edwards were the two Rams named to the tournament All-Star team, with Bin-Edwards being named Tournament MVP.
But more than any individual story, this Rams season was the story of a team. The team carried the pressure of an undefeated season, injuries to star players, and massive amounts of adversity into the Final 8, and came out with the Bronze Baby that they’ve been trying to get since the team made their first Final 8 appearance in 2015, and long before then.
A team with seven 5th year players on the roster, it was a group that played for themselves, and of course their coach.
“I don’t even have words to describe it right now. I love this team,” said Hall. “The best decision I’ve ever made was coming here and playing for Coach Clarke.”
It was that love that made this year’s Rams team so special. Throughout all the pressures, injuries, and seemingly insurmountable deficits, it was a team that believed in their coach and believed in the women next to them on the court.
As much as the swarming, relentless defence, and the excellent guard play can be credited with supplying downtown Toronto with a truly magical season, the team that finally lifted their school’s first ever Bronze Baby after the final buzzer of the 2022 U SPORTS season wasn’t a team of crafty guards or tenacious defenders. It was a team of teammates, coaches, and staff who came together as a family, and came away with perfection as a result.