Hamilton, ON- On their final possession, the McMaster Marauders women’s basketball team had a chance to tie the game. They were on the verge of continuing their comeback – perhaps into overtime.
The Marauders were facing the undefeated reigning U SPORTS bronze medallist Queen’s Gaels at home on Nov. 13 and after losing to Ottawa and Carleton earlier in the season, the Marauders had another chance to knock off a quality opponent.
They matched the Gaels throughout the game. When they fell behind early, they rebounded. When Queen’s hit a timely shot, so did McMaster. In the third quarter, they even went out to a 48-38 lead.
Then Queen’s made their run. McMaster couldn’t score for a stretch while the Gaels pushed the pace in transition. Suddenly, the home team’s 10-point lead had evaporated. Suddenly, they were staring at a 10-point deficit midway through the fourth quarter.
“We went away from what we had been doing for 30 minutes up until then,” Burns said. “The biggest thing was, we weren’t smartly [defending] their ball handler and wind up. We can’t let [Bridget] Mulholland get to full speed…and not pick her up until the three-point line.”
McMaster got another vital defensive stop in the waning moments as Jenna Button stole the ball. She pushed it up the court and missed a three but the Marauders got the rebound. However, Gates’ last-second three attempt was blocked. 79-76 Gaels. Game over.
Bridget Mulholland pushed the pace all game and scored in transition, finishing with 16 points and nine rebounds. Like their close losses to Ottawa and Victoria, Burns pointed to a few mental errors as the difference.
Working through those mental errors comes from training. It comes from intensity in practices, attention to details and building mental toughness, according to Burns. “Just keeping our head in the game, just staying strong,” guard Deanna Mataseje said.
The Marauders showed that strength down the stretch against Queen’s. With the game winding down, Gates nailed a three and Joli-Coeur hit a jumper. Then Gates drilled back-to-back threes to pull within three.
Burns pointed to their defence as a key to their late run. “We got grittier on D. We made sure we cleaned up defensive boards. We didn’t give them second chances,” she added. “When we D up like that, when we get running, lots of good things happen.”
For the Marauders, there were still positives to take away.
Gates scored a game-high 34 points to follow her 47-point record-breaking performance against York the previous game. She leads all U SPORTS players with 30.8 points-per-game in four regular season games.
Queen’s head coach Claire Meadows called her a phenomenal player. “We tried to play her [Gates] tough and she still was able to find 34 points and she came up big for them at the end of [the] game,” Meadows noted.
The supporting cast around Gates contributed as well – including their core of second and third-year players. Mataseje had seven points and a team-high three steals.
She said she’s grown in confidence on defence. “That’s how we play our best basketball is when we get the steals and then push the ball in transition,” Mataseje added.
Another player with a standout performance was Joli-Coeur. The third-year forward (in her second season of play) continued to take steps forward and showcased her post moves going up against fifth-year forward and OUA First-Team All-Star Julia Chadwick.
“Cassie is maybe one of the most coachable players I’ve ever met,” Burns added. “She takes every single detail you tell her and tries to put it in her game.”
The Johnstown native is averaging 11.2 points and 5.5 rebounds in all games this season – good for second on the team behind Gates. Against Queen’s, she notched 23 points and five rebounds, shooting a team-high 68.8 per cent from the field.
“She’s [Joli-Coeur] so good at reading her defender and depending on how they’re playing her, she’s able to hit the reverse. She’s able to hit the step back. She’s able to do a fade,” Mataseje said. “She has every single thing you could ask [for] as a big. She has so many tools in her toolbox.”
“I just feel like she plays within herself,” Meadows noted, crediting her poise.
For the Marauders going forward, their poise and focus for the whole game will be the key. “Our biggest goal is just playing the full four quarters,” Mataseje said. They’ve grown a lot since the Ottawa loss, according to her.
Burns said she was really pleased despite the defeat. She said they grew as a team over the weekend. The Queen’s game gave them the confidence that they’ve never out of games and can dig themselves out of holes, according to her.
“Today was a character game for us,” she added. “We’re never going to quit. Right until the final buzzer. So, I’m proud of them. It was a great opportunity.”
Featured Image: Marisa Settimi/McMaster Athletics