Hillis helps Hawks to final home win

(Photo courtesy of Mike Whitehouse)
Laurier’s Whitney Ellenor drives to the net during Saturday’s game. (Photo courtesy of Mike Whitehouse)

With less than 15 seconds left in the fourth quarter, the Wilfrid Laurier women’s basketball team sat a point behind the visiting Western Mustangs, 58-57.

Fifth-year guard Amber Hillis stole the ball at the top of Laurier’s key, went down the court and finished with a layup — with only 12.1 seconds left on the clock and a 59-58 lead.

12 seconds of tight defence by the Hawks secured a win in Saturday’s final regular season home game for Laurier — and consequently, a winning record going into the post-season.

“You always want to end on a winning note going into the playoffs,” said head coach Paul Falco. “I was really pleased with the way we battled.”

The Hawks improved to 11-10 Saturday afternoon with the win, the same record as the Mustangs. However, despite the win, Western holds the tiebreaker because of last week’s 13-point victory. Laurier will finish fifth in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) West division and will play Western in the playoffs.

Laurier started the game off slow, unable to produce much offence. Defensively, the Hawks missed the rebounding of third-year Doreen Bonsu, who was out with a concussion.

However, the Hawks and Mustangs were evenly matched for much of the first half, with Western leading only 26-24 going into the break.

“I didn’t think we gave it our best effort, especially in the first half. [We] defensively tightened things up [at the half] and we were much better.”

Much of the same occurred in the second half, as Laurier and Western would exchange points. In the fourth quarter, the Hawks’ offence put on the pressure while holding Western to only 14 points. The final layup by Hillis would seal the game.

Laurier’s Whitney Ellenor would finish the game with a double-double, scoring 18 points and recording 11 rebounds. Western’s Jenny Vaughan recorded a team-high 22 points for the Mustangs.

Focus for the Hawks now shifts to playoffs, which will start on Wednesday. Falco emphasized that consistency will help the Hawks and be his main focus in the upcoming days.

“I think for us, it’s consistency,” he said. “You can see that when we’re good, we can play with pretty much anybody. But it’s a matter of doing it consistency for 40 minutes.

“Obviously we take some confidence from this game, the way we battled back late in that fourth quarter to get the victory.”

“I think we need to stay composed. We can celebrate this game tonight but then forget about it and refocus for Wednesday’s game,” Hillis said.

Saturday afternoon was also Hillis’ and fourth-year Alena Luciani’s final regular home game as a Hawk. Falco said that Hillis’ departure will be a “big loss” for the squad next season.

“I think she’s probably as tough of a player I’ve ever played with and coached, male or female,” Falco said. “She plays with pain every day and she just keeps on going with a smile on her face.”

The Hawks will play on the road against Western Wednesday night. Time is still to be determined.

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