Badgers bring home national silver after battle with No. 1 Huskies

Photo Credit: Mackenzie Gerry

Photo Credit: Mackenzie Gerry

The 2019-20 women’s basketball season came to an end on Sunday, when the Brock Badgers and Saskatchewan Huskies battled it out for a national championship in the nation’s capital. The Badgers ultimately fell to the No. 1 Huskies, but still brought home a national silver for the first time in program history.

The Huskies have dominated the country all season long, finishing with an overall record of 31-2 including postseason action. Their dominance continued on the national stage, beating their opponents by an average of 17 points throughout the tournament. The Huskies were led by the duo of Sabine Dukate and Summer Masikewich, who scored 24 and 20 points respectively, en route to an 82-64 win in the final game.

Both Dukate and Masikewich were named Tournament All-Stars, along with the Badgers duo of Melissa Tatti and Sam Keltos, as well as UPEI’s Jenna Mae Ellsworth. Dukate was also named Finals MVP after shooting 8-12 from three.

The championship marks the second national title for the Huskies, with their first being won back in 2016. Team captains and seniors Dukate and Megan Ahlstrom have now book-ended their collegiate careers with a pair of national championships.

“Last year we were devastated by our performance in nationals,” said Huskies head coach Lisa Thomaidis. “But I think sometimes it takes those disappointments to learn from and to propel you to even greater performances. I thought this season is what really took place from [those disappointments] and the group really learned from our mistakes of the past, used it, and really put forth a good performance this entire season. I’m really proud of them for that.”

Sam Keltos led the Badgers in scoring with 21 points, but picked up two early fouls in the first quarter, forcing her to go to the bench for a good chunk of time in the first half.

“I definitely wanted to attack her and get her into foul trouble,” said Summer Masikewich, who was battling with Keltos for the entire game. “That’s the best defence against her, putting her on the bench.”

While the result is not what the team had in mind, this year’s Badgers have accomplished more than any other team in program history. From winning the OUA championship, to finishing second in the country, to the countless individual awards racked up by Tatti, Keltos and head coach Mike Rao, the 2019-20 Badgers will be forever remembered as one of the best to ever do it.

Sunday also marked the final career games for Tatti and Jessica Morris, as both seniors will be graduating this spring. The two have been instrumental to all of the Badgers success this year and will be greatly missed moving forward.

Morris finishes her career at Brock as the sixth-highest scorer in Badger history, while posting career highs across the board this season. The things that Morris does so well on the floor do not end up in box scores; the deflections, the strips, the countless jump balls she’s fought for, all often go unrecognised, yet are imperative to championship teams.

Tatti finishes her career as the greatest women’s basketball player in Badgers history; this season alone she was named a First Team All-Canadian, a U Sports Tournament All-Star, an OUA MVP and an OUA First Team All-Star, all while helping bring home the Badgers’ first provincial championship since 1983.

“Playing together has been amazing,” said Tatti, speaking of her time alongside Morris. “We talked about it this morning. We shared a room all week together, and two years ago we took a year off together. We decided, ‘let’s take a year off from basketball.’ Then Rao got hired and we were like, ‘let’s just play for fun,’ and now we’re here on the national stage. We’re so grateful and we honestly can’t even believe it. We woke up this morning and were like, ‘wait what, we’re in the national finals?’ We just decided to come out and play and whatever happens, happens. Second in the country? I’m not complaining about that.”

While two huge pieces will be missing next season, Rao will still have the likes of Sam Keltos and Kristin Gallant to build around, while the Badgers younger players will see an increased opportunity come the 2020-21 season. Tatti is expecting similar results.

“I’m expecting big things,” she said. “Honestly, you see Elise [Euale] come off the bench and she’s like a little me. Just off the screen, pop, shot, and that’s what you can look forward to next year. I think they’re going to be good next year — people are going to underestimate them again but we made it to nationals this year so we’re going to make it here again next year.”

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