Four minutes and 57 seconds is all it took for Kira Cornelissen to pick up her second foul against the University of Toronto Varsity Blues. Cornelissen, a key star to the Brock women’s basketball team and to their four guard-one big offensive system, would have to come out of the game early. She wouldn’t see any action for the remainder of the first half.
It certainly wasn’t something first year head coach Ashley MacSporran expected to deal with in her debut game. Especially since Cornelissen averaged 37 minutes in the final three preseason games — the Badgers have been very reliant on their forward, as they’ve played very few minutes offensively without Cornelissen. However, they had to adjust and learn quickly in their first game of the season.
“We haven’t had a lot of offensive time with [Cornelissen] off the floor,” said MacSporran. “We talked about running sets or just running up and down the floor and get layups.”
The Badgers didn’t look comfortable at all as they shot 28.6 per cent for the first half. Brock and Toronto would go into halftime tied 25-25, but it wasn’t how either expected their first half to go. The Badgers did show signs of taking over the game in the second, as they began the quarter on a 12-3 run, but Toronto found ways to hang around.
Coming into the game the Varsity Blues had struggled to rebound the ball in their first two games. They were outrebounded by 27 against Waterloo and 13 versus Ryerson, respectively. Against the Badgers, Toronto looked like a much more aggressive team on the boards as they outsized Brock. Toronto would finish the game with a 66-49 advantage on the boards, but Brock would finish with the advantage on the scoreboard.
A strong third quarter led the Badgers to their first win of the season, 67-49. They held Toronto to 12 points each in the third and fourth quarter, while putting up their best numbers in both those quarters. This is the first time the Badgers have opened the season with a victory since 2013.
“[The] third quarter has been our quarter all preseason so we wanted our first three minutes to be where we took over the game and set the tone,” said MacSporran.
The Badgers played their final preseason games with six healthy bodies, and luckily had two returning players for this matchup. Bridget Atkinson was the key injured player returning for the Badgers, as she took a leadership role on the court as soon as she came into the game.
Atkinson, a third year guard, joins the Badgers after playing two season with the Guelph Gryphons. The Welland, Ontario native would finish the game with 13 points, seven rebounds and four steals. As Atkinson works her way back from injury it’ll remain unclear if she will work her way into the starting rotation.
Melissa Tatti also filled the stat sheet as she was three rebounds and three steals away from a triple-double. The third year guard would have a final line of 13 points, seven rebounds, six assists and seven steals. Cornelissen had a major second half, where she scored 10 of her 12 points and grabbed 12 of her 16 rebounds.
“Our point guards need to lead a little bit more in between Tatti and Atkinson,” said MacSporran. “We have also asked the players to echo our plays. So if the point guard calls it they have to echo it so they’re all on the same page.”
“It’s just growing pains of a new program and new team.”
The Badgers are slowly getting back to being as healthy as possible, but they’ll continue along with a tight rotation until a player like Adonaelle Mousambote is ready to return.
The Badgers will now focus on their next three games, which will be against divisional opponents. They’ll play McMaster twice with Guelph in between those two games.
“McMaster is rolling and playing really well,” said MacSporran. “I feel like they’re very similar to us. They are very guard oriented with one solid big.”
Seniors Danielle Boiago and Clare Kenney will be two Marauders the Badgers will have to watch out for on Wednesday night, as Brock heads to Hamilton. Third year guard Hilary Hanaka has also been a strong contributor as she’s averaging almost six assists per game.
“We just have to be focused and ready to go,” said MacSporran. “It’ll be interesting to see what shows up Wednesday and as I said to the girls, if we can’t handle this pressure, what Mac brings is a little different so we have to be on the same page and in attack mode.”
It’s unclear when Jessica Morris will return from injury for Brock, but the game against Guelph will be her and Atkinson’s first games against their former team.
Last season the Badgers lost by three and 10 to McMaster in their two games, and split their two games against Guelph.