Brock women upset Laurier leading to two early victories

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This past Wednesday and Saturday, the Brock women’s basketball team made a statement to the entire OUA. After losing a play-in game to get into the Critelli Cup playoffs last year, this new-look younger Badgers team came out and won two straight games against Western and Laurier — both of whom were Critelli Cup participants last year.

After all the pomp and circumstance with player introductions and pyrotechnics for the home opener in the Bob Davis Gym, the Badgers seized on that momentum to come out with a 6-0 run. After that initial adrenaline rush, a 19-6 run by Western deflated the Badgers and the crowd. A timeout by head coach Ashley MacSporran rallied the troops midway through the second quarter and on the back of some strong three-point shooting. The Badgers closed out the first half on a 12-3 run to take a 29-26 lead into the locker rooms.

Coming out of the break, Western made the move to go to a full-court press while double-teaming the ball-handler, which forced many Badger turnovers. The Mustangs capitalized on these opportunities and took a 43-39 lead into the fourth quarter. In the fourth quarter, it was a new Badgers offense, highlighted by sophomore Ana Caldeira Rua’s ability to break the press and set up her teammates with easy buckets. The Badgers then cruised to a 62-53 win.

Rua, the starting point guard in her second year on the team, had a great game with a double-double, totalling 15 points and 10 assists, while also gathering four steals on the defensive end. Not to be outdone, Welland native Courtney McPherson had a 14 rebounds (six offensive), while also chipping in nine points in the paint. While it was a victory in the end, it looked like the momentum had swung Western’s way after halftime. Western was forced to abandon the high pressure strategy in the fourth quarter after some stout Badger defense.

“We wanted to keep the full court press. It just didn’t occur that way so it was hard to set up,” said Western head coach Brian Cheng following the game. “We certainly didn’t underestimate [Brock]. We knew that they could beat us and that’s what happened tonight.”

Taking the momentum from Wednesday, Brock came out on Saturday with another strong start, taking a 19-11 lead after the first quarter of play, which meant the Badgers had scored a combined 42 points in their last two quarters of play at that point in time.

In the second quarter, the Badgers ran into trouble after Rua ran into some foul trouble and was attacked on the defensive end. Moreover, the Badgers let Laurier stay in the game at the free throw line affording them 10 shots while Brock did not attempt a free throw in the entire first half. The Golden Hawks would lead the Badgers 34-33 at halftime.

Coming out of halftime, the third quarter went back-and-forth with both teams playing sound defence. The Badgers improved their discipline on defence by not conceding a free throw the entire quarter. The highlight of the game came when McPherson stole the ball and went end-to-end for the easy layup, two of many transition points on the afternoon. In the fourth quarter, Brooke Murdoch, who was 3-for-3 from three-point range in the first half, would step up in the absence of Rua, adding in another two three-pointers, finishing the day with 19 points and seven rebounds. The girl with ice-water in her veins would be Kristin Gallant, who scored seven of the last eight point to close out the 65-60 win for Brock.

After seeing the Brock women in action for 80 minutes, what is clear is that this team is reliant on the transition game to penetrate into the paint, and second-chance opportunities. Two players to watch for this year will be Rua, as she will be tasked with keeping up the tempo and facilitating the ball movement to get the ball underneath the basket, and McPherson, whom the Badgers will rely on to bring in double-digit rebounds every game. Murdoch also has cemented her role as the three-point sharpshooter, which will space out the court for the players.

“We’ve been talking about the joy in playing together because they’re so young. Because we’re younger, we want to get up and down a bit more. Our goal today was 40 transition points and we beat that,” said MacSporran.

This team may be young, but they have loads of potential and should not be taken lightly by any opponent moving forward.

 

The Brock Badgers will now travel to York to play the Lions on November 3. Their next home games are November 17 and 18 against Nipissing and Laurentian.

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