The OUA basketball season is quickly winding down as teams around the league are battling for favourable playoff seeds. On both the women and men’s side, the OUA holds a majority of U Sports top 10 positions (as of week nine). McMaster, Queen’s, Carleton, Windsor and Ryerson are all ranked 3-7 on the women’s side. Carleton continues to dominate in men’s basketball, as they rank number one. Ottawa and Ryerson hold the third and fourth spots, and Brock ranks sixth — although the Badgers are in good position to move up in week 10.
For both the women and men’s teams at Brock, they each have five games remaining and are in position for a postseason berth — the men would currently receive a first round bye. It has been an up and down season for both teams, for different reasons. However, the final stretch is equally important.
On the women’s side, the injury bug has been flying around the locker room all season. Just recently it reached their star forward, which at this point in the season is the last thing the Badgers needed. OUA leading scorer, Kira Cornelissen, missed both Brock’s games this past weekend due to a concussion. It’s assumed Cornelissen suffered the injury during the team’s game against York on January 21.
The injury filled season for Brock has looked as following: starting point guard Bridget Atkinson missed all of preseason, but has not missed a regular season game, guard Jessica Morris missed the first three regular season games; and starting guard Melissa Tatti recently missed Brock’s game versus York.
Having only four players miss time due to injury may not seem like much, but the Badgers have been playing with a nine player roster for a majority of the season.
Nonetheless, this Badgers team has been a strong force offensively, specifically over the last seven games. Over the last stretch they have been five points better offensively than in the first seven games of the season. Overall the Badgers rank seventh in the OUA in points per game at 67.4 — which only ranks behind the OUA’s five nationally ranked teams and a strong Laurier team.
A majority of the recent offensive success for the Badgers has come from improved three point shooting, as over the last seven games they’ve been hitting 31.5 per cent from three, compared to 24 per cent in the first seven games.
Although the offense has been one of the league’s best, the Badgers are coming off their second four game losing streak of the season, as they defeated divisional rival Guelph for the second time this season 75-63 on Saturday.
Atkinson scored a season-high 27 points against her former Gryphons team, as she led the Badgers to their fifth win of the season. Baelie Campbell added 14 and Tatti had 12 points, all coming from three.
It’s unclear when Cornelissen will return to the Badgers lineup, as a concussion is a serious injury and could take weeks to recover from. So with their only starting forward out, the Badgers will continue to play small ball with a five-guard rotation, and rookie Shannon Northey being the only forward off the bench.
The Badgers will close out the season against the OUA West division. Luckily for Brock, three of the five west teams rank in the bottom seven in rebounds per game, as Cornelissen averaged 10.3 rebounds per game for the Badgers.
If Brock wants a successful end to the season, even without Cornelissen, they should come away with three of five wins in their final stretch of the season. If Brock can do that, they have a slight chance of grabbing a playoff seed higher than 11 – the spot they currently hold.
Looking at possible playoff scenarios:
1) If Brock does win three of five (which includes a win over Western), Brock could finish with the 10th seed.
2) If Brock wins three of five and Lakehead loses three of their final five games, the Badgers could receive the ninth seed.
3) If Brock wins three of five, Lakehead loses three of five and Toronto loses their final five games, the Badgers could lock in at the eighth seed.
For the Brock men’s team, they’re coming off their biggest win of the season, as they defeated number four ranked Ryerson on Friday. They also came away with their biggest margin of victory on Saturday as they defeated Guelph 89-62.
Dani Elgadi came close to another double-double as he led the way with 20 points and nine rebounds against the Gryphons. Cassidy Ryan came off the bench to score a season-high 19 points — Ryan has been averaging 12 points per game over the last four games. Rookie Daniel Cayer added 14 on 6/8 shooting.
The Badgers now ride a season-high five game win streak, and it seems the team is starting to glue together. Over the last five games, Brock is averaging 78.6 points per game and have defensively held teams to 64.6 points per game – not allowing any opponent to reach the 70 point mark.
The win over Ryerson puts Brock back in the conversation as a possible team to reach the U Sports Final 8. However, the Badgers did struggle against Carleton and Ottawa earlier in the season, and the Badgers will need to possibly get through one of those two teams to reach the National stage.
But before Brock can think about the U Sports Final 8 or even the OUA playoffs, they must close out strong with five games left on the season. Most might assume with both McMaster games, the Ottawa trip and the Ryerson game out of the way for Brock, the remaining schedule will be a cakewalk for the Badgers.
Yet, these final games will be about how much momentum the Badgers will carry into the playoffs as they closeout against a tough OUA west division. No team in the west has a record above the .500 mark, but any of the five teams can pull out an upset victory.
It’s assumed that the Badgers will complete a sweep of the West division — beating Waterloo, Laurier, Algoma, Western and Windsor (in that order) — and moving forward with a first round bye in the OUA playoffs, something they missed out on last year.
Losing to McMaster at the end of last season left the Badgers with the sixth seed, and a second round matchup against Carleton, ultimately leading to an early playoff exit. This season if the Badgers come away with the first round bye, they’ll be in good position to reach the OUA semi-finals.
The first nine games of the season, the Badgers looked out of sync. Things have looked up the last five. Head coach Charles Kissi said from day one, “we are playing for March, but we are just one game at a time”.
The one game at a time approach is working. The Badgers are getting better every game, which could mean only good things come playoff time.
Brock will play host to Waterloo on February 1, with the women’s game tipping off at 6:00 p.m. and the men’s game at 8:00 p.m.