TORONTO, ON – The 2022-2023 OUA Women’s Basketball playoffs are ready to rock.
After an exciting season filled with different teams getting hot at different times and the top teams separating themselves more and more, the seeding has been set and it’s on to the 2023 Critelli Cup playoffs.
The top seed and one of four first-round byes go to the 21-1 Queen’s Gaels. Queen’s rolled their way through the regular season, using their team play and depth to out-execute their opponents, losing just one game to the Carleton Ravens whom they finished the season series 1-1.
The second seed and a first-round bye go to the Ravens. Carleton finished with a record of 19-3 and second in the OUA East behind the Gaels. Powered by Kali Pocrnic, Dorcas Buisa and the stellar interior play of Emma Kiesekamp, the Ravens pushed teams up and down the floor. They used their multi-faceted offence to overwhelm opposing teams.
The third seed belongs to the OUA Central champs, the McMaster Marauders. Coming in at 17-5, the Marauders finished with a 9-1 division record. The MVP play of Sarah Gates, who averaged 27 points per game during the season, combined with the three-point shooting the Marauders have become so known for, made guarding this team incredibly difficult on a nightly basis, and they used that to their advantage.
Tying McMaster at 17-5, the fourth seed and final first-round bye go to the Waterloo Warriors, who captured the OUA West. Only losing one game on the road, the Warriors were a tough out for anyone during the season.
With Vanessa Hughes running the point, Beth Howlett and Kaitlyn Overeem doing the work off the ball, and Summer Pahl anchoring the defence, the Marauders improved on their 2021 season and now go into playoffs waiting for the winner of the fifth seed vs the 12th seed.
Now let’s talk about the first-round and the 5-12 seeds, which will be squaring off on Wednesday evening. First is the matchup between the fifth-seed Ottawa Gee-Gees and 12th-seed Laurentian Voyageurs.
(5) 18-4 Ottawa Gee-Gees vs (12) 9-13 Laurentian Voyageurs
The uOttawa Gee-Gees come into the playoffs with the third-best record in the OUA behind their division rivals the Carleton Ravens and Queen’s Gaels.
The battle for positioning between the Gee-Gees, Ravens and Gaels provided a lot of exciting basketball and entertainment throughout the year, and the Gee-Gees kept up through their execution and defence.
The control Oksana Gouchie-Provencher had over the paint throughout the year was almost unrivalled. She led the league in blocks with 2.8, 0.9 more than the next, and she controlled a lot of the boards alongside Brigitte Lefebvre-Okankwu. Now she will go against the powerful duo for the Voyageurs, the Tabin sisters.
Bailey and Sidney Tabin have done wonders for the Voyageurs throughout their career, and now they will look to once again win the rebounding battle against Emily Payne and Oksana and get Laurentian’s shooters’ extra opportunities.
Ottawa puts on a lot of ball pressure with their guards on the perimeter, and Laurentian will need to move the ball quickly to avoid getting trapped at the top of the key, along with fluid motion to keep Ottawa from fully setting up on defence. Being able to move the ball as well as sealing Oksana away from the rim will help the Voyageurs’ offence move and get lanes against the prolific shot blocker in Oksana.
(6) 16-6 Guelph Gryphons vs (11) 9-13 York Lions
York received the tiebreaker and the 11 seed due to their win over Laurentian in the regular season, and now they will go to Guelph to take on MacKeely Shantz, Natalie Vigna and the Guelph Gryphons. York’s combo of Lauren Golding and Cyanna King both finished among the top rebounders in the OUA this season, and that will surely be a point of emphasis for the Lions wanting to establish their own pace and play.
While both teams like to set up their offence off of their defence and create transition opportunities, York’s advantage lies in their control of the boards and denying Guelph second chances, and whether they will be able to do that will be a key for how they fair in this matchup.
While York has the advantage inside the paint, Guelph’s advantage is in their versatility on the perimeter. When they’re using screens and swinging the ball, trying to keep players like MacKeely and Natalie and Renee Armstrong in-front can be a tall task.
Guelph moving the ball around looking to find a lane for the quickness of Renee or MacKeely will be a key to their execution, and will help get shooters like Natalie or Julia Colavecchia a corner three off a drive-and-kick. Offensively moving the ball and defensively using their opportunistic play should generate extra possessions for the Gryphons, ones they need to capitalize on due to the difficulty Golding and King add to getting extra possessions.
(7) 14-8 TMU Bold vs (10) 11-11 Western Mustangs
The defending OUA and U SPORTS champs are back in the playoffs, this time in the seventh seed, and they host the Western Mustangs.
TMU has won seven of their last eight games and since the start of the season they have been the best representation of 1% better every day. Through their leaders in Rachel Farwell and Eve Uwayesu, the Bold have played phenomenal team basketball and gotten better at execution each game, making them the very well rounded team they are heading into playoffs.
Their opponent the Western Mustangs are looking for some momentum and looking to ride their powerful offence through a playoff run.
They’re led by veteran guard Ariane Saumure who can score in a wealth of ways, and forward Sarah Harvey who controls the inside of the paint. A primary facet of the Mustangs is their speed on offence. To beat the TMU defence, Western will need to get movement from side to side and get the Bold out of rhythm, and for that Ariane and Samantha Cowan will need to use their facilitation skills to force mismatches or openings for catch and shoot threes.
(#8) 12-10 Windsor vs (#9) 12-10 Brock
The eigth and ninth seed come into playoffs with the same record, the tiebreaker coming from a Windsor victory over Brock at home late in the season. The Badgers are looking to get back to the Critelli Cup final, but to do that they will need to step up their defence. What gave Windsor the upper hand in their regular season matchup was the ability to get to the rim and make Brock’s forwards make tough decisions defending the rim. Brock will need to keep Windsor’s guards in-front to give the quick hands of Keren Kasonga and the other guards chances to create steals and transition opportunities where they are best.
The Lancers will need to continue to do what they did in their last meeting. Using their physicality to get to the rim opened up perimeter opportunities and chances at the foul line, and to keep ahead of the Badgers, they will need to continue to capitalize on their perimeter opportunities, and put the Brock starters in foul trouble when they can fully utilize their physicality against a backed off defence.
Queen’s awaits the winner of Windsor and Brock, Guelph or York will travel to Hamilton to see the Marauders, Carleton awaits either TMU or Western and Waterloo will see either the Gee-Gees or Voyageurs when the semi-finals take place over the weekend.
The OUA playoffs are underway, everything means more and every team has their path they have to go on to get to the championship. Let the fun begin.