Badgers begin their push for the OUA playoffs

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Heading into the new year the Brock Badgers women’s basketball team possesses a 5-7 record, good enough for fourth in the crowded OUA West division. The West is bookended by some really good teams, (including 11-1 Lakehead and 10-2 McMaster) and on the other side of the spectrum, some poor ones (including 1-11 Western).

In between those, however, five teams (Brock, Guelph, Laurier, Algoma, and Waterloo) all currently stand at two games apart. The OUA is structured where the top six teams per division qualify for the playoffs, with the top two in each division receiving first round byes. It is safe to say that Lakehead and McMaster will be receiving the byes in the West, while third place Windsor will most likely stay where they are come seasons end.

That leaves five teams jostling for three spots, and considering the Badgers’ toughest part of the schedule was in the first half of the season, they look to be in pretty good shape. In case you forgot, the Badgers closed out 2018 with an incredible come from behind win against the York Lions that saw Melissa Tatti score a go-ahead and-one with 14 seconds left to secure the 75-73 win.

It was the most exciting game of the season – in addition to Tatti’s game winner, Miranda Smith set a career high with 17 points including five made threes. The win was huge for the Badgers, as it ended their four game losing skid, but more importantly ended the year off on a high note.

“We were struggling there for a bit,” said Kristin Gallant after the win over York. “We were playing tough teams, but we got a lot of the tough teams out of the way this first semester, so we did a great job [ending the half]”.

The Badgers begin 2019 on a five game road trip, with crucial games against Laurier, Waterloo, and Guelph before coming home for five of their next six, ending the regular season with two tough road games against first place Lakehead. The fate of the Badgers season lies in their own hands; if they can come back to Brock having won three (or more) games of their road trip, they should be in good shape assuming they take care of business at home.

A concern, however, is the overall health of the team. Courtney MacPherson and Jessica Morris missed the last four games of 2018, and rookie Eden Ferraro also missed time late in the first half. The absence of MacPherson – Brock’s top rebounder – has allowed opponents to take advantage of an already small Badger team missing their biggest player on the glass (MacPherson returned to the lineup during Brock’s 70-57 win against Western on Jan. 5).

Melissa Tatti leads the league in minutes with a staggering 40.4 per game, over four more minutes than the next highest. It should be noted that a regulation game is 40 minutes long, so including overtime, Tatti is averaging more minutes than the regulation game length, a la Wilt Chamberlain in 1961/62 (when he averaged 48.5 minutes that season).

While her play has remained at an extremely high level, (third in the league in scoring, first in steals, second in assists), one has to wonder whether the high minute total will eventually start to wear her down.

In terms of improvements for the second half of the season, Head Coach Mike Rao had this to say, “We need to be a little more resilient. We need to get tougher, we need to get stronger inside. We got to get tougher inside.”

The Badgers don’t return home until the end of the month, where they will face the Algoma Thunderbirds for a back-to-back on January 25 and 26.

 

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