Fourth quarter offence lifts Hawks

(Photo by Kha Vo)

(Photo by Kha Vo)

LONDON, Ont. — The Wilfrid Laurier women’s basketball team was one quarter away from being eliminated from the playoffs.

In the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) West semifinal Saturday, the Hawks were down 37-29 against the Western Mustangs going into the fourth quarter and needed a big offensive presence to have a chance to make the OUA West final.

And the Hawks found just that. A 15-0 run at the beginning of the fourth and 24 total points in ten minutes lifted Laurier over the Mustangs and right into the OUA West final this coming Saturday.

“To make it sound simple, we started to hit shots,” head coach Paul Falco said.

“We had trouble knocking down shots in the first three quarters and once the lid came off the basket, a few of them started to drop. Our offence grew and we were able to finish them off in the fourth quarter.”

In addition to a surge of offence, the Hawks played solid defence throughout the entire game, holding OUA leading scorer Jenny Vaughan to merely five points the entire game when she typically averaged over 20 throughout the regular season.

Fourth-year Whitney Ellenor had a solid 13 rebounds in the game, with six of those coming off the offensive board, giving Laurier more chances for points.

The Hawks outrebounded the Mustangs 49-37.

And after the Mustangs eliminated Laurier in the OUA West quarterfinal last year, it was a big win heading into their biggest challenge yet.

“It feels good,” Falco said.

“We had such a rivalry with Western the last couple of years, who were a pretty evenly matched team. To get them at their gym, on the road, was a big win for the girls and we’re looking forward to heading down to Windsor and giving them another shot.”

The Windsor Lancers, the No. 1 seed in the country, are heavy favourites with only one loss this year.

In their two meetings throughout the season, Windsor defeated Laurier 73-44 and 70-59.

But Falco believes the next few days will be crucial in finding a good game plan for Laurier to take on the powerhouse Lancers.

“We’ve got a couple days to figure things out in terms of trying some different things,” he said.

“Last time we played them, we played much better than the first time here. And some of the things we tried, we’ll try again.”

For the Hawks, the big focuses will be good defence and good rebounding, which were evident factors in the OUA West semifinal against the Mustangs.

Then, it’ll be finding ways to shut down Windsor’s offence.

“We have to be a little bit better at taking care of the basketball and not turning it over, because a lot of their game comes from the transition game off turnovers. So that’ll be an area we’re looking to clean up for sure,” Falco said.

A win in Saturday’s OUA West final will send Laurier to the OUA final against the winner out of the East division, either the Queen’s Gaels or the Carleton Ravens.

It’ll also give the Hawks a berth in the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) championships in Windsor.

If the Hawks lose, they’ll play for the bronze medal in the OUA and the final berth into the CIS championships.

But Falco isn’t thinking about the worst-case scenario right now.

“I think we have to take the approach we’ve had the last few weeks here — just look at the game that’s ahead of us and not look past it,” he said.

“We have a chance to qualify for the nationals this Saturday, so you always want to take advantage of that opportunity when it presents itself.

“So we’re going to do what we can to knock off Windsor and look at the next game, whoever that might be, after that.”

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