Hamilton, ON- In their last home game of the preseason, the shots weren’t falling for the McMaster Marauders women’s basketball team. However, they persevered.
Facing the Memorial Sea-Hawks in their first of four preseason games in four days, McMaster took them the full 40 minutes but came away with the 57-54 win on Oct. 20.
“I’m really proud of the team for sticking together even though it was pretty close at times,” forward Cassandra Joli-Coeur said. “It was definitely a good test for our teamwork and our ability to stay together when things are rough.”
They came out strong, leading 18-10 after one quarter by scoring in the paint and from beyond the arc.
Yet, as the game went along, shots didn’t go in. The Marauders shot 28.8 per cent from the field and 12.5 per cent from three. They shot 16.67 per cent from the field in the third quarter.
However, the team made key defensive plays and got key rebounds to keep the game close. Then, midway through the fourth quarter, they made their run.
Leading by one, guard Sarah Gates scored four straight points. Arianne Soriano grabbed an offensive rebound and hit a three. Amy Stinson scored in the paint to put them up 56-48.
McMaster withstood a late Memorial run for the 57-54 victory.
“It’s been a long time since if ever I’ve seen a team [shoot] that cold,” Marauders head coach Theresa Burns noted. “Unfortunately, that was us tonight but you’ve got to find ways to get it done.”
One of those ways was finding other ways to score. The Marauders are a high three-point shooting team in terms of volume and efficiency. Burns said the team talks about other options for scoring.
“One basic one is just scoring in transition,” she added. “Don’t get yourself into that half-court set where you’re trying to earn a good shot.”
Joli-Coeur said the key is to stay loud and to not let the shooting get to them. “If you get quiet, the momentum will be lost,” she said. “So by keeping on encouraging each other, we kept going.”
McMaster’s players cheered as they created chances in transition from their defence and rebounding. The team had 16 steals to Memorial’s seven. The Sea-Hawks turned the ball over 34 times compared to McMaster’s 17.
Gates had five steals, Soriano had four and Delaney Bourget had three. Gates led the team in scoring with 14 points while Soriano led all players by shooting three-for-six from deep.
Joli-Coeur credited Soriano’s energy.
“At this level, everyone that you’re playing is skilled,” she said. “It’s whoever’s showing up, bringing that energy on the court and going after the things you can control like rebounds and creating opportunities for herself and everyone on the team.”
Soriano finished with six rebounds, including four offensive ones and ran the point guard position.
Burns called it a complete game for Soriano. She pointed out Soriano’s hustle plays. “She keeps so many o-boards alive for us to get up and either herself or tip it to keep it alive, hitting the floor, tying up loose balls, steals,” she noted.
The head coach remembers Soriano coming into McMaster with that energy and passion. She won an OUA and a national title in her first year. In her fourth season of play and fifth season on the team, the Mississauga native has had a bigger role year by year
“If anything, her first year, it was like 100 miles an hour but without control or without eyes up making good decisions,” Burns noted. “She’s learning how to play fast but make better decisions with it as well too so really proud of her today.”
Joli-Coeur also made key plays against the Sea-Hawks. The starting centre had 13 points and four rebounds, shooting six-for-seven from the field.
One of her go-to shots was the turnaround jumper which she nailed numerous times. Burns said Joli-Coeur benefited from having a full summer of training this past offseason. Joli-Coeur is in her third season at McMaster but in her second of playing.
“She’s an absolute focus on details,” Burns said. “She’s so coachable. If you tell her something, she’ll work on it.”
Joli-Coeur worked on getting reps. It helped with her decision making. Playing in the gym during hot and humid days during the summer helps as well.
“It just helps translate into the decision making now because when we’re tired, I remember being even more tired than I was on the court today, during the summer,” she said.
Those reps and drills including standing in the short corner as well as anywhere in the paint and working on her post work and shooting. Her success also comes from her mentality.
“Just claiming space in the key and staying home and getting the shots that I know I can get in,” she said. “Things go well when I keep it cool and keep my time and I’m going to try and keep doing it in the future.”
Speaking of the future, the Marauders then embarked upon Toronto Metropolitan University for the Darcel Wright Memorial Classic where they defeated the UBC Thunderbirds and Saskatchewan Huskies before falling 73-71 to the Victoria Vikes in the finals. Joli-Coeur had a career-high 16 points against Victoria.
The team finishes with 4-1 record in the preseason. Burns said the team continues to learn and get better each time.
Just like she learned from this past summer, Joli-Coeur knows this stretch of games is a challenge that prepares them for the future.
“It’s good to get stuff like that in now because so we know how to react when we’re getting tired later on in the season.”
Featured Image: Rick Zazulak/McMaster Athletics