On Saturday, February 28, the Varsity UTM Women’s Basketball team hosted the Sheridan Bruins in their first ever playoff game in program history. After finishing their season with a 10-6 record—losing their previous two games of the season—the Eagles looked to bounce back.
On the other side of the court, Sheridan had lost their last five games and finished their season with a 9-9 record. Although their form was shaky, Sheridan definitely came to the RAWC with a chip on their shoulder.
In the first quarter, the Bruins went into the game with a lot of energy, coming from the court and their bench. UTM found themselves down 3-7 before taking an early timeout. They had good opportunities but came up short.
The atmosphere in the gym was different from other games; both teams were getting into each other’s faces defensively, often running the shot clock to its final seconds, and were aggressive in the first quarter. Both teams were sent to the free throw line on several occasions.
Sheridan took a timeout after UTM began to show their hustle rebounding the ball and getting to loose balls first. A three on the offensive side and a charge on the defensive side by UTM’s Janella Viado energized the crowd late in the first quarter. A slow, physical start ended in Sheridan’s favour, 10-19.
The second quarter started with a Sheridan three-pointer and a quick response three-point made from Jade Addai. Bodies were falling to the ground as the physical play continued. UTM’s Avery Torok’s three pointer pumped the crowd up while sparking a 9-0 run to force Sheridan into a timeout, 21-23. UTM found their offense and continued to up their defensive pressure, forcing Sheridan to take contested jumpers while capitalizing on their turnovers. Defensively, UTM’s Kayla Rice was everywhere, catching rebounds and picking up steals.
Out of the timeout, both teams were looking to be the first ones to score, and after two minutes UTM’s Brea Maloney seized a rebound and converted an and-one opportunity to give UTM their first lead of the game, 24-23. Both teams went back and forth to end the half at 25-30, with UTM outscoring Sheridan 15-11 in the quarter.
Torok went off to start the second half, scoring ten straight points for UTM. She found her range, taking jumpers with confidence and quality. On the other side, Sheridan used their screens and pace on face breaks to keep up. They forced UTM into a timeout to slow the game down, 32-39.
Out of the timeout, UTM went on a 13-5 run that was capped by Viado’s back to back threes which gave the Eagles a one-point lead, 45-44. After a Sheridan timeout late in the third quarter, both teams fought for every point to set up the final quarter. The third quarter ended 47-48 for Sheridan.
The final quarter was looking good for UTM as Addai finished a lay-up on the fast break that gave UTM the lead. After multiple stops on both sides, Sheridan sparked a 7-0 run and forced another UTM timeout, 49-55. Addai continued to fight for UTM, finding her way to the basket and UTM’s Akashia Moore-Samuels put her body on the line, grabbing a flagrant foul and nailing two free throws and getting the possession back for UTM with three minutes left on the clock, 58-59. The Sheridan Bruins silenced the crowd with a three and trip to the free throw line to gain a six-point lead before taking a timeout. Sheridan’s number two hit a three-point dagger with a minute left to go, and with time against them, UTM did not have enough time to close the lead. The game finished in a loss, 62-70.
Pressure and momentum were the name of the game. With many lead changes and a lot of tactical timeouts, both teams felt the presence from each other. Although UTM had a roaring crowd on their side, Sheridan never wavered and with every timeout it seemed as though their coach gave them just a bit more control of themselves.
In the end, the UTM’s Varsity Eagles Women’s Basketball Team played their hearts out for the final game of the season and held their heads high in arguably the most successful run in their program’s history.