Women’s basketball beats nationally-ranked team for first time this season

Gaels narrowly edge out nationally-ranked eighth Carleton

Post Veronika Lavergne (left), who landed 11 rebounds on Saturday, hit two important free throws to seal the win against Carleton.
Post Veronika Lavergne (left), who landed 11 rebounds on Saturday, hit two important free throws to seal the win against Carleton.

When players believe in their capabilities, performance levels soar.

This was the sentiment women’s basketball Head Coach Dave Wilson preached to his players on Saturday night, following their upset win over the nationally-ranked eighth Carleton Ravens 74-70.

The win—which was prefaced by a lopsided 60-41 loss to the UOttawa Gee-Gee’s the night before—marked the Gaels’ first over a nationally-ranked side this season. In spite of the feat, Wilson hoped his team’s inspired play had come a little sooner.

“I’ll be honest, I told the team I thought we’d perform at that level almost a month ago,” he said. “[But] I’m not going to complain. It was a really important win for us, especially [considering] Carleton’s had our number for the last three or four years.”

Saturday’s victory notwithstanding, Queen’s hadn’t beat Carleton since 2014-15. And over the last decade, they’d won just four out of a possible 22 games against the Ravens.

But they flipped the script this time around.

The Gaels headed into their matchup versus Carleton over the weekend with a playoff berth on the line, and they certainly played like it. After opening the game on a 10-2 run, the team set the tone early—they were aggressive yet composed and cautious. Led by the efforts of fifth-year guard Marianna Alarie and second-year post Sophie de Goede—the former scoring 11 points, the latter nabbing eight rebounds—Queen’s finished the first quarter up 22-14.

The second frame saw a Gaels squad that’d lost their footing. On the heels of an 8-2 run, the Ravens seized momentum of the game. The OUA’s top-ranked defensive unit limited Queen’s to a meager 19 per cent conversion rate from the floor, going into halftime holding a 34-33 lead. 

In what became a back-and-forth affair, the Gaels couldn’t separate themselves from the Ravens until late in the fourth. Tied at 67 apiece with two minutes to spare on the clock, third-year Veronika Lavergne hit two critical free throws before Alarie wrapped it up with a jumper of her own.

“I think the critical aspect was belief,” Wilson said following his team’s upset win. “That’s where we’ve struggled against Carleton over the years—having doubts about [ourselves].”

While the Gaels shot just 36 per cent from the field in the victory, they made up for it in other categories. Alarie, the team’s leading scorer this season, continued to be a constant on offense with 21 points. De Goede, meanwhile, recorded a career-high 21 rebounds, accounting for almost half of Queen’s 48 total boards in the game.

The biggest indicator to credit the Gaels’ success, though, was a significantly reduced turnover rate. 

“That’s the big one: we took care of the basketball,” Wilson said. “And my feeling is, anytime you’re 14 [turnovers] and below, you’re doing a very good job. You throw on top that Carleton’s such a good defensive team, I thought that was an excellent accomplishment.”

Queen’s nine turnovers on Saturday were a far cry from what they’ve produced on the hardwood the past few months. The Gaels have given up possession less than 10 times one other time this season—six against Western in early November—and currently hover around the bottom four teams in the league with 20.4 turnovers a game.

“I’ve never had a team average 20 turnovers in a game before in my career,” said Wilson, who’s in his 37th year at helm of the women’s basketball program. “This is a process; it’s going to take time. We haven’t solved it yet, but this gives us some confidence to recognize when to move the ball and when to be cautious with the ball.”

With the first round of the postseason scheduled to start Feb. 20, the Gaels are running out of time to find their groove. But Wilson isn’t much for fretting—he knows he’s got a talented group on his hands. He just hopes they know that themselves.

“When the players believe in themselves and in what we’re capable of doing, I think [we’ll be] capable of going on a deep run in the playoffs and nationals,” Wilson said.

“It’ll take a lot of things to align for that to happen, but it’s within their grasp.”

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