Wednesday night will mark the eighth straight season Brock women’s basketball has appeared in an OUA playoff game. In fact, the Badgers program has been a playoff team 17 of the last 18 seasons – however they have failed to play in more than one game nine of those times.
This year’s playoffs will have similarities to the previous two seasons for the Badgers. It’ll be the third consecutive time they’ve played in the preliminary round featuring the number eight and ninth seed. The difference this time will be that the Badgers will hold the higher seed allowing them to host the first round game.
As the number nine seed and the road team for the last two years the Badgers have failed to pick up a victory. Last season they lost to Guelph 69-51 and the year prior they fell to Toronto 77-61.
Their last OUA playoff win came on March 3, 2012 against Carleton, which was the OUA bronze medal game. The Badgers last playoff win on their home court came on February 25, 2012 versus Laurier.
Wednesday will mark their first home playoff game since February 23, 2013, but that won’t be the only difference in comparison to the previous two playoff appearances for the Badgers.
It’ll be their first appearance under rookie head coach Ashley MacSporran, who has been able to continue the Badgers consistency of being a playoff team even after the team saw five key players graduate from their 2015-16 roster.
The departure of the graduating players hasn’t been MacSporran’s only challenge: two of her biggest recruits, Bridget Atkinson and Jessica Morris both missed all of preseason, forcing the two to integrate into the team system with minimal practice time. In addition to that, the rookie coach has been limited to an eight-player rotation for 11 of the 20 games this season – the Badgers played with seven players for the final four games.
MacSporran built the team system around forward Kira Cornelissen, who led the OUA in scoring this season with 20 points per game despite missing the final seven games. With Cornelissen in the lineup, the Badgers have played with four guards around the fourth year player. With Cornelissen out of the lineup the Badgers have been forced to play with five guards on the court for a majority of the time – rookie Shannon Northey being their only forward.
It’s unclear if Cornelissen will receive clearance to return from her concussion, as she did begin light shooting earlier this month. If the double-double averaging Cornelissen does return, it brings to question how the Badgers will be able to adjust after missing her for the final stretch of the season.
With Cornelissen out, starting guards Atkinson and Melissa Tatti have been able to find their chemistry together – creating one of the best 1-2 guard combos in the OUA. Since January 20, a stretch of eight games, Tatti has averaged 17.5 points on 43.7 per cent shooting and 37.5 per cent from three. Tatti has also averaged 4.1 assists and 3.7 steals. Atkinson, in the last nine games has averaged 15.7 points, 6.5 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 1.9 steals and 1.2 blocks.
The Badgers will host their divisional rival the Lakehead Thunderwolves in the OUA preliminary round matchup – the two teams posted identical 8-11 records this season. The two also split their two games this season, with the Badgers winning game one 92-84 and the Thunderwolves winning the back-end of the doubleheader 71-47.
Like the Badgers, the Thunderwolves also had success against some of the OUA’s top teams. Against number one seeded Queen’s, Brock lost 79-72 and Lakehead fell 68-61; Brock struggled against number two seed Carleton, but Lakehead held their own losing 68-65; after being blown out by McMaster in their first game, Brock almost defeated the Marauders but fell 94-90 in overtime, while Lakehead lost both games against the Marauders 63-58 and 75-65; finally, Lakehead had solid games against Windsor and Ryerson, the number four and five seeds, losing 74-62 and 69-66.
So if there are two teams in the OUA that could pull out an upset in the OUA quarter-finals, it’ll be one of these two teams, but only one can move on to play the Queen’s Gaels.
The Tunderwolves this season were led by Bridget O’Reilly, who averaged 11.2 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.7 steals. Guard Nikki Ylagan was also key, averaging 10.3 points and 1.6 steals. Lakehead was without August Ricketts for nine games, including their two games against the Badgers. In the 10 game she did play in, the forward averaged 10.6 points.
Here is a breakdown of both teams:
Points per game
|Field goal percentage||39.3||37.9|
|Opponents field goal percentage||39.3||35.6|
*The 39.3 showing up for the Badgers three times is not an error*
Although the Thunderwolves have the edge in almost every category over the Badgers, we should expect a close game between the two, especially if Brock can find a way to score around any defense Lakehead throws at them.
Brock: Bridget Atkinson
My original x-factor for Brock was Melissa Tatti, who’s turned her season around since the New Year, but Atkinson struggled in the Badgers final two games. Despite being held to 14 minutes in their final game against Windsor, Atkinson scored a total of 10 points in the last two games, while shooting 5-for-18.
The Badgers will need the aggressive point guard they know Atkinson can be. When the team has struggled offensively, the guard has been able to single-handedly carry the load. She is one of the best off the dribble attackers in the league, as she’s able to make the shot while being fouled, she rebounds well for a guard and has solid court vision.
The offense for the Badgers starts with Atkinson, so to beat the Thunderwolves man-to-man defense or zone defense, they’ll need their leader to come up big.
Lakehead: Rachel Webber
Webber has started in nine of the Thunderwolves last 10 games, and her offensive production has picked up in those games. However, it won’t be the scoring the Thunderwolves need from their guard – Webber’s ability to rebound (averaging 5.6 per game) and defend (2.5 steals per game) has been a big part to the Thunderwolves season.
The Thunderwolves are a defense-first team, so Webber will be key to shutting down the Badgers guards of Atkinson and Tatti. If Webber and the Thunderwolves can shut down one of the Badgers two guards, they’ll be the favourites to win.
Overall, this will be another tough number eight versus number nine seed game for the Badgers. With this being reading week, the Badgers may not have a large home crowd so they’ll have to rely on the familiarity of their home court to bring success.
With or without their star forward, Cornelissen, the Badgers have a solid chance to move onto the OUA quarter-finals. The Badgers are a gutsy team that has found ways to pull out wins, even being shorthanded all season.
The Badgers and Thunderwolves are two very evenly matched teams, and they’re also two teams none of the higher seeds in the OUA want to see in the later rounds. The winner will move on to the quarter-finals and play the number one seeded Queen’s on Saturday.