When Ashley MacSporran was named the new Brock women’s basketball head coach this past June, she joined an accomplished list of former U Sports basketball players who have gone on to coach in the league. Some of the biggest names on that list include Theresa Burns, Michele Belanger and Lisa Thomaidis — three coaches MacSporran said back in June she only dreamed to be like one day.
That’s why the scene ahead of Brock versus McMaster this past Saturday was special. MacSporran stood side by side with Burns, McMaster’s head coach, in which the photo being taken represented the past, present and future of women’s basketball at the Canadian university level.
Burns has been coaching in the league for 25 years now, as she started with Ryerson in 1988 and joined the Marauders in 1992. MacSporran, a rookie head coach, could one day be like Burns and coach in her 25th season.
However, Saturday wasn’t the first time MacSporran coached against Burns in her short head coaching career. The two coaches and their teams squared off 10 days prior, in a game the Marauders blew out the Badgers 86-51.
It was clear from that November 16 game that Burns was coaching the number one ranked team in the country, while MacSporran’s roster, although not a rebuild in her eyes, still had a long path to go to reach the likes of McMaster.
A week prior to the second matchup, MacSporran said she knew that her team wasn’t 30 points worse than the Marauders and that she had a different game plan ahead of the November 26 game.
Right from the moment the ball was tipped off, the style of play from the Badgers looked different. They looked much more in control offensively, a lot more physical on the defensive end, and were able to stay out of foul trouble doing so. More importantly, the Badgers looked like they knew they could beat the Marauders.
“I keep talking about believing” said MacSporran. “We are not a complete rebuild. We are that talented.”
When the Badgers opened the game on an 8-2 run that belief of being talented enough to beat the Marauders entered the gym. Although, still very early in the game the Badgers were in control. When the Marauders began to answer midway through the first, the Badgers didn’t seem to blink an eye.
The first quarter would end with the Marauders up 17-15, but the second quarter saw the Badgers go on another run. This time it was an 11-2 run that would allow them to sustain the momentum and take a 42-35 lead at halftime.
It was late in the third when momentum seemed to shift towards the Marauders. The Badgers largest lead of 16 came with 1:52 left in the third, but McMaster closed the quarter on a 5-0 run. Then sitting with what seemed to be a comfortable 15 point lead with 8:02 left, the Badgers began to see flashbacks of what the Marauders did to them in their first matchup.
The whistles, which seemed to be in the favour of the Badgers all game, began to turn towards the Marauders. Fourth-year guard Danielle Boiago would begin to find her range for the Marauders, scoring 19 of her team high 39 points in the final eight minutes, including a three that would cut the Badger lead to two.
The Badgers would get the final shot of regulation in a 79-79 game, but Melissa Tatti’s three was blocked by none other than Boiago.
In overtime the Marauders were led early by Linnaea Harper, but the Badgers would continue to hang around and take an 86-85 lead with 1:31 left. But Boiago answered with a three from near half court, which was then answered by Tatti to give the Badgers an 89-88 lead.
The Marauders would then live off the free throw line, hitting six of eight free throws to give themselves a 94-90 victory over the Badgers.
Boiago would score 39 points to go along with six rebounds and four steals. Linnaea Harper, who destroyed the Badgers in the first meeting from deep, would go 0-3 from three but had 21 points and 11 rebounds.
The Badgers were led by both Kira Cornelissen and Bridget Atkinson, who both scored 25 points, respectively. Cornelissen would add 15 rebounds and Atkinson had 11 to go with six assists. Baelie Campbell added 14 points and Tatti had 11.
“We focused on defensive stuff, taking care of rebounds and getting to the rim,” said MacSporran following the game. “We were getting the right kind of shots and getting to the rim.”
“These are moments young teams need to be in to get experience,” she added.
The Badgers are now 2-2 to begin the season, but this game against the Marauders is a huge confidence booster for a young team.
Brock will take a lot of positives from this game, but we may also be witnessing one of the best up and coming coaches in U Sports. MacSporran’s ability to get 40 minutes of effort from a depleted roster every game and to almost upset a number one ranked Marauders team after being blown out by 35 earlier in the year, shows she has what it takes to one day be listed along with Burns, Belanger and Thomaidis.
There is still a long path to go for MacSporran to start thinking of being part of such a tremendous list, but through four games she has shown she can truly coach in this league.