One win short of CIS

Besieged by injuries all season, women’s ball makes Final Four

Fourth-year guard Jenny Wright’s 13.8 points per game led all Gaels this season.
Fourth-year guard Jenny Wright’s 13.8 points per game led all Gaels this season.
Fifth-year point guard Liz Boag is graduating after finishing her final season as a Gael with 13.1 points per game.
Fifth-year point guard Liz Boag is graduating after finishing her final season as a Gael with 13.1 points per game.

A loss in the provincial semi-finals ended an unexpected run for women’s basketball.

The Gaels fell one win short of qualifying for the CIS national championships, losing 69-60 to the Ryerson Rams — the eventual provincial runners-up — last Friday in Windsor. The loss came one week after Queen’s upset the second-seeded Laurier Golden Hawks in the OUA quarterfinals.

Head coach Dave Wilson said Queen’s succeeded in their goal of shutting down star Ryerson guard Keneca Pingue-Giles, holding her to eight points.

But the Gaels weren’t able to contain the Rams’ other players, as first-year Ryerson forward Sofia Paska dropped a game-high 18 points.

“Unfortunately, their younger players stepped up,” Wilson said. “Those are really the players that beat us.”

Queen’s trailed by 16 points heading into the final quarter, and while they rallied in the fourth to close the gap to seven, the difference proved to be too much to overcome.

Wilson said the Gaels struggled with finishing on offence compared to their two previous contests. They shot 35.9 per cent from the floor, hitting just six of 24 three-point attempts — both down from their playoff victories over the Golden Hawks and the Laurentian Lady Vees.

“There were some opportunities that we kind of left on the table,” Wilson said, “but we just didn’t get the ball to fall.”

The Gaels entered this season after capturing the OUA East title and earning a spot at the CIS championships in 2013-14.

This year’s Final Four exit may seem like a bit of a letdown, but Wilson said the campaign as a whole was a success.

“You come into the season with some goals,” he said. “When you fall short of that, it tends to colour your reflection of the whole season. But in reality, we overcame a whole pile of obstacles and stuff and played some very, very good basketball over the course of the season.”

The team’s health was a major obstacle. Six players suffered concussions at some point during the year, including fifth-year forward Gemma Bullard.

An OUA All-Star in 2013-14, Bullard missed over half of this season, averaging just 4.2 points per game in limited playing time when she was healthy.

The Gaels finished seventh in the conference during the regular season, but played some of their best basketball at the end of the year, according to Wilson, after the roster returned to full strength.

“We got besieged by injuries that sort of took us off our stride a little bit,” he said. “It took us until almost the end of the season to recover from that.”

“Getting back together to what we were capable of doing was pretty neat to see after all the injuries.”

Several Gaels had strong individual campaigns. Fourth-year guard Jenny Wright led the team with 13.8 points and was named a First-Team OUA All-Star, while fifth-year guard Liz Boag earned Second-Team honours.

Wright may return next season, but Boag and Bullard won’t be coming back. Instead, Queen’s will have to rely on younger players who had strong campaigns this year. Second-year guard Abby Dixon broke out in 2014-15, notching 8.5 points per game off the bench.

Wilson said next year’s roster will have to play a different style of basketball.

“One of the things I’ve learned is you never really replace players — they’re just way too unique,” he said. “You learn to work with the players that you have [and] that you bring in, and you make a completely new sculpture of your team.”

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