Women knock off third ranked Western

“It’s always more fun being the underdogs.”

That was how fourth-year Christa Mancino summed up the position she and her fellow Laurier women’s basketball players were in on Saturday. Coming into their Ontario University Athletics (OUA) West quarterfinal with the number-three nationally ranked Western Mustangs, the Hawks’ chances of advancing looked slim. Western, who was coming off a bye week, had won both games versus Laurier during the regular season and only lost three all season.

But the Hawks played the role of underdog to perfection and stunned the Mustangs, winning 76-74, scoring 28 points in the final quarter to seal the win.

“It was amazing, we reacted like we had just won nationals,” said Mancino. “There’s the big Laurier-Western rivalry, so it definitely went deeper than just the actual game itself. We came in looking to knock them off their high horses and we were ecstatic when we achieved it.”

Mancino was the Hawks’ leading scorer with 18 points, however not far behind her were fellow veterans Renata Adamczyk with 17 and Mallory Kohlmeier with 14. According to Laurier head coach Paul Falco that veteran group of Mancino, Adamczyk, Kohlmeier and fifth-year Megan Grant was the key to the Hawks pulling off the upset.

“Our three fifth-year girls have really been our leaders along with Christa [Mancino] all year and they came up big on Saturday,” said Falco. “Megan, Mallory and Renata really showed their experience and played like fifth-years and Christa was a big influence offensively…. They’ve been a big part of us getting better every week, a month or two ago we wouldn’t have won that game and to beat Western in that situation is huge for the program.”

The post-game jubilation Mancino referred to did not last long as 24 hours after their win over Western, the Hawks had to play the Windsor Lancers in the OUA West final.

“The quick turnaround definitely had some advantages and disadvantages,” said Mancino. “On one hand we were still on a high from the night before but at the same time I think our starters were pretty worn down by that point. We had been throwing everything we had at Western, so that turnaround definitely took a bit of a toll on us physically.”

On Sunday, the division-winning Lancers proved too much and despite a late comeback attempt, the Hawks fell 65-59 in the OUA West final, missing out on an automatic berth in nationals.

“We had played [Windsor] well in our gym about a month ago and on Sunday we played them even tougher,” said Falco. “We had a better opportunity to knock them off but we had a couple of miscues in the last couple minutes and we weren’t able to get over the hump, but we’re hopeful we can get another crack at them back in their gym in the final eight.”

Next up for the Hawks is this Saturday’s OUA bronze medal game on the road versus the University of Toronto. A win will give the Hawks a chance at hosting a regional playoff on top of a higher ranking heading into the next round.

The next crucial test for the Hawks will come in the regional round, which takes place March 11-12 and will determine who gets the final three spots in the national championship tournament.

Three Hawks were also individual winers as Falco was named OUA West coach of the year, Adamczyk won the Joy Bellinger award and point guard Felicia Mazzerolle was given OUA West rookie of the year honours.

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