Losing leading scorer Kira Cornelissen to an injury ahead of a tough matchup against number seven ranked Ryerson Rams was the last thing the Brock women’s basketball team needed. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happened, as Cornelissen was held out of Friday night’s matchup due to a concussion. It is unknown when the injury occurred, but it is likely she played through it for some of the game against York last weekend.
Without Cornelissen in the lineup the Badgers gave up a lot of height against the Rams and it showed on the court. Brock’s starting five consisted of all guards as the regular four Melissa Tatti, Bridget Atkinson, Alex Symonds and Baelie Campbell started, alongside Jessica Morris who replaced Cornelissen. Between those five players, Symonds is listed as the tallest at 5’9”.
To put that in perspective, the Rams had three players in their starting five listed over six feet tall – which was undoubtedly a strategic decision by Rams head coach Carly Clarke. The Rams utilized their height, repeatedly feeding 6’4” centre Sofia Paska in the paint for easy baskets.
However, it was the Badgers speed and athleticism that kept them in the game. Their ability to pass the ball until they found an open lane to the basket was highly effective and the Badgers found themselves on the favourable end of a 22-21 game at the end of the first quarter.
Tatti, Symonds and Atkinson were all on their game early as they seemed to consistently make layups or successfully got to the foul line. It was no surprise that they led the Badgers through the first half, as head coach Ashley MacSporran’s game plan was clearly to run the ball through those three players.
The Rams took a 43-39 lead into the locker room at halftime, as Paska led the way with 12 points. Bronwyn Williams added 10 points and five rebounds. For the Badgers, Tatti led the way with 14 points, three assists and one steal.
If there was a message that MacSporran needed to deliver to her team at halftime, it was to stick with the game plan and execute on their chances. The Badgers shot just 37.8 per cent from the field, compared to the Rams 51.5 per cent.
The Rams pulled away early in the third quarter as the Badgers were unable to capitalize on their end of the floor, and the Rams were nearly perfect from three. The Badgers seemed lost defensively, as their first half strategy of double teaming the forwards in the paint proved to be their own third quarter demise as they continuously left a player open behind the arc. The Rams outscored the Badgers 28-14 in the third quarter. The Badgers had a late push in the fourth quarter but in the end it was too little too late.
The Rams would take the 91-75 victory. Although the Badgers had a good game plan for playing with a relatively small lineup, Paska and Williams’ height was too much for the Badgers to handle defensively. Paska finished with 22 points and 10 rebounds, while Williams had 14 points and six rebounds. For the Badgers, Tatti finished with a game high 24 points, as well as four assists. Atkinson had 17 points and eight rebounds and Symonds added 15 points. Northey did a terrific job on the glass grabbing eight boards.
Atkinson, Symonds and Tatti were exceptional for Brock. Shannon Northey was terrific defensively and on the boards with a huge assignment guarding Paska in the paint. The game was a lot closer than the score would suggest, and without the Rams third quarter where they seemed to make every shot they took (especially from three-point range), the game could have been a lot closer in the end.
Despite the loss to a very good team, the Badgers proved that they are still able to compete with the stronger OUA teams after coming off a miserable performance against York.
Brock will travel to Guelph on Saturday to take on the Guelph Gryphons. The Badgers are on a four game losing streak as they continue to slip out of a playoff spot, so their divisional game against the Gryphons is almost a must-win.