Toronto, ON- Almost three months had elapsed since the McMaster Marauders women’s basketball team last faced the TMU Bold. It was a different story this time.
Back in Hamilton last November, the defending OUA and national champion Bold were coming off three straight losses to open the regular season. McMaster handed them their fourth – the start of the Marauders’ run of 14 wins in 15 games.
This time, on Feb. 11 at the Mattamy Athletic Centre, TMU was much improved, according to Bold head coach Carly Clarke. Against McMaster, they showed that in a 78-63 win.
“We’re looking forward to see how we measured up and I thought we came out really ready,” Clarke noted.
The Bold started off strong, scoring inside and outside. They led by two points after one quarter and by 12 points at halftime.
Guards Tiya Misir and Kaillie Hall were running the offence, pushing the ball in transition and finding teammates. The threes were falling as well. TMU shot 37.9 per cent from deep with five players hitting multiple threes.
The Marauders are a strong three-point shooting team and suddenly, they were being matched.
McMaster head coach Theresa Burns said they did fine at moments defending against the deep ball. Meanwhile, in other moments, there were missed assignments, players one step behind and not having hands up contesting shots.
“When a team’s hot from the three like that, as we know, you could open a game up pretty quickly,” Burns said.
Staring at the halftime deficit, the Marauders responded in the third by running their offence – lots of spacing, three-point shooting and drives. They trimmed that lead down to four points by the end of the quarter.
Then the fourth quarter started. Then TMU went on another run by making stops defensively and hitting their shots. Then McMaster was turning the ball over. Suddenly, the Bold were back up by double digits and celebrating their 78-63 victory on the court as the final buzzer sounded.
Clarke credited their composure for weathering McMaster’s hot shooting in the third. “We re-established a little bit more control on offence and got the ball where we wanted to,” she added.
For them, that meant getting fourth-year forward and leading scorer Rachel Farwell touches inside, which led to her scoring. Meanwhile, Misir continued to run the offence by protecting the ball, driving and scoring in the paint as well.
The Long Island University transfer has helped fill the absence of standout first-year guard Kait Nichols, who is out with an injury. Against McMaster, Misir finished with a team-high 16 points as well as three rebounds, two assists and one steal.
She won an OUA and national title last year coming off the bench but has seen her production shoot up since then. Misir played in the HoopsQueens league in Toronto this past summer against current and former professional and university players. At TMU, the Scarborough guard’s minutes and scoring more than doubled from last year to this year.
For the Bold, it’s also been a story of upward trajectory since their first McMaster game. Coming off a national championship season with many key stalwarts gone, there were roles to fill. In their places, players were in different roles and had different responsibilities than before, according to Clarke. Add on top of that some injuries.
“We just never really established any continuity in our rotation and lineup and even roles until the last few weeks,” Clarke noted.
They’ve been through their highs and lows during the season. Wins against Guelph and Ottawa paired with losses against Laurier and Toronto. They lost to Carleton but they kept it close throughout.
Then came their six-game winning streak – capped off with arguably their best win of them all against a streaking McMaster team. Their depth was evident against McMaster with Misir, Farwell, Haley Fedick, Jayme Foreman and Eve Uwayesu all finishing with double-digit points. Forward Eleanor Jones added six rebounds while Hall led the team with five assists.
The strong recent form comes just in time for playoffs as well – where they could be a dangerous team against anyone.
“The chemistry is developing and I’ve always believed we’re capable of competing with anybody in that case and I think we’re just showing it,” Clarke said.
Marauders Regroup and Reflect Amid Stretch Run
While the Bold continued their winning streak, the Marauders saw their own 10-game winning run come to an end.
There were good moments throughout the TMU game – particularly in the third quarter. U SPORTS leading scorer Sarah Gates added to her tally with a 28 points, 11 rebounds performance. Burns saw how they played with pace, were committed defensively and had good ball, foot and player movement. They shot 50 per cent from the field and three in the third.
During the fourth quarter, it was a tale of mentality. “I think we uncharacteristically, mentally kind of went into a bit of a ditch in the fourth quarter,” Burns said. She saw that they were getting fatigued and getting down on themselves a bit during that stretch.
McMaster turned the ball over eight times in the fourth and shot two-for-10 from the field and zero-for-four from three.
Second-year guard Deanne Mataseje pointed out how they were getting sped up too much – leading to turnovers, rushing shots and not getting stops on defence. Burns said the coaching staff will go over details from the TMU game with the players.
For Mataseje, part of the solution comes from doing what they did well during the third quarter and the winning streak.
“I think honestly, just slowing down and playing our type of basketball instead of having a team speed us up,” she added. “Or, however the other team’s playing defence, having that affect how we play.”
What does their type of basketball look like? Pushing the ball, running the floor, hitting shots, according to her. Being positive as well – which is something they’ll take forward.
“It’s just important to get our heads up, keep our heads up, stay positive and then work into next weekend,” she added.
That weekend is the regular season finale. The Marauders host the OUA West leading Waterloo Warriors and the Toronto Varsity Blues. The Waterloo game very well could be a de-facto decider for who gets the third seed.
Burns said that while every bit of seeding helps and is important, the team still has to win playoff games against tough opponents – including possibly the TMU Bold. The head coach called the TMU game a practice playoff game.
“It’s a tough game against a team that executes details very well,” Burns said. “You need to be able to beat teams like this in the playoffs.”
Featured Image: Curtis Martin/TMU Athletics