The Varsity Blues women’s basketball team stormed the court last Friday in the hopes of turning their season around with eight games remaining.
The team entered the game with a 6-8 record, good enough for fourth place in a competitive East Division, led by the Carleton University Ravens. As the Blues begin their road to the playoffs, they faced the Algoma University Thunderbirds, who sport an abysmal 0-14 record in their first year as a CIS team that has kept them at the bottom of the standings. The T-birds entered Friday’s affair looking for their first win of the season against a Blues team decked out in custom pink jerseys to support the Think Pink campaign in support of the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation.
It didn’t take long for the Blues to establish a healthy lead after fourth-year forward Liane Bailey opened the scoring and supplied the team with half of the points it got in the opening minutes, putting the Blues up 12-7 halfway through the first quarter. The Blues’ offensive pressure continued until the end of the quarter, and they built themselves a nine-point cushion with a 20-11 lead.
The second quarter was no different for the confident Blues. If they weren’t able to establish scoring opportunities, they were successful at drawing the foul and getting to the free-throw line. The steady play on offence allowed the Blues to widen their margin to 31-15 halfway through the second quarter. Fifth-year forward Alicia van Kampen led the team in scoring during the quarter with nine points, helping the team earn a commanding 39-15 lead going into the half. The team’s success was due to their good transition game, their ability to convert on the offensive end after making smart defensive stops, and their unselfish play in the opposition’s end.
Algoma continued to fall into foul troubles as they entered the second half. Led by guard Sydney Resch, the Thunderbirds couldn’t capitalize and dug themselves into a hole with consecutive giveaways. Meanwhile, the Blues didn’t let up on scoring, extending their lead to 30 points as the third quarter wound down. The team shared the ball around the arc in the search for the perfect shot and collected rebounds before Algoma could catch their breath. The Blues’ offence was coordinated by guard Jill Straton, who has been leading the team in points per game with 14.6. Diedre Edwards also helped in the guard position, helping U of T take the lead to a margin of 39 points above their opponents.
The play for both sides dwindled in the fourth quarter, as the two tired squads were unable to take the ball to the basket because of foul trouble or travelling. The pass-first mentality of the Blues seemed to be less effective in the final stretch, leading the team to unwanted turnovers and an inability to score. The team’s less-than-stellar play in the fourth was nevertheless insured by their massive lead, which gave the Blues their seventh win of the season in a 75-35 blowout, their biggest point-differential victory all season.
The Blues’ head coach, Michèle Bélanger, wasn’t shy in revealing that Algoma’s winless record played into her team’s confidence. “I would think they can assess records as well as anybody else, and they probably thought they were going to win, but didn’t know by how much,” she said.
Bélanger named Kristy Chute and van Kampen, who scored a career-high 18 points, as players who really stepped up their performance. “I’m pleased; every game we’re getting stronger and stronger,” she said. “And we’re getting very good performances from a variety of different players.”
Though the Blues have already secured a playoff spot, their performance throughout the season has fluctuated, raising questions as to whether they will be able to hold their own come post-season. Despite the unsteady play, fourth-year biochemistry major Bailey is confident in her team’s chances. “We can do anything that we set our minds to as long as we work really hard,” she said. “And I think our record doesn’t really reflect how good of a team we are.”
The Blues will play four of their remaining six games at home as they hope to better their record before the start of the playoffs. After winning Saturday night’s game against Laurentien by a score of 77-45, the team sits at the .500 mark for the first time this season and looks to be on the upswing. The Blues will look for revenge against Carleton on January 31 when they face them at the Athletic Centre for their final meeting this season.