On Saturday, December 1st, the UTM women’s varsity basketball team took a heartbreaking loss to the Lambton Lions, who clawed their way to a 65-67 victory. This loss makes it the sixth straight for the Eagles.
It was a first game of a back-to-back for the Eagles, who looked for a win to create momentum leading into their game scheduled for the following afternoon. But it was a slow start for both teams. The bleachers were silent, with both teams struggling to lock in, neither team could make a run. Back-to-back threes by guards, Jade Addai and Janella Viado, infused some much-needed life and energy into the gym and into the game. With the increased enthusiasm, our UTM Eagles fought aggressively for rebounds and steals, diving onto the hardwood for any loose balls. And with great ball movement, crisp passing to find the open man for the good shot, they ended the quarter with a double-digit lead over the Lions and woken up Eagle fans, getting them involved in the same.
In the second quarter, UTM picked up where they left off in the first with more hustle plays leading to more buckets to increase their lead. However, Lambton out-rebounded UTM in the quarter, leading to more second chance points. By half time, the Lions cut a double-digit Eagle lead to three points.
It was a struggle for both teams coming out of half-time, with neither team able to score. Approaching the half-way point in the third, Addai breaks the ice by hitting a three, which breathes some life into the tired UTM team.
The fourth quarter began as a tense affair. With a lot of time left in the game, our Eagles had to come up with a win despite being down their leading scorer, Addai, and their leading rebounder, Jiana Alnajjar, who both fouled out of the game. In the seconds before the final buzzer, the score bounced back and forth. The energy in the RAWC was contagious, it had everyone in the stands up on their feet. A late bank shot and long three-pointer by second year guard, Trisha Vo, tied the game and there was some hope there would an overtime. But a foul with two seconds left in the game, sending a Lion to the free-throw line for two shots, ended any chance for an Eagle comeback.
Head Coach, Salee Johnson-Edward, doesn’t think it was any one play or thing that led to the Eagles coming up short, but rather an accumulation of things that added up against UTM by the end. “It was a tough game. Honestly, they worked hard, I don’t think it was anything specific they did. Some of the [referee] calls were a little questionable, but there were things we weren’t doing on the defensive end. We missed a couple of defensive assignments, and a couple of easy baskets we needed to drop. It’s discipline really, it all comes down to discipline. We’ll use this game as a learning tool, but there’s really no time to sulk.” Our UTM Eagles are scheduled to play the St. Clair Saints on Sunday, December 2nd.
“It was a good game. We had a lot of girls step up, which is what we needed with so many girls in foul trouble and fouling. We had no more bench, and I’m proud of the girls for fighting till the end. It sucks that we lost, but at the end of the day, there are some things you can’t control. We’re not always going to get the benefit of the whistle,” said Addai, despite fouling out early in the fourth, finished the game with 18 points and 5 steals.
“I think both teams fought hard, but in the end we were the ones that came up a little short. Our dumb fouls, too early on in the game, is what led us to the trouble we found ourselves in the fourth. But I have to congratulate our bench for coming through and stepping up with their effort. Altogether a good effort. I just hope we can bring that same energy into our game against St. Clair,” said Alnajjar.
Despite the loss, new recruit, Kayla Rice, is optimistic for the second half of the season. “The amount of support I received from the coaches and the girls, and UTM as a whole, was more than I could ask for. I’m looking forward to spending the rest of the season with such a hardworking and passionate team.”