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Gaels stifle Toronto, advance to division basketball final

February 23, 2014

By CLAUDE SCILLEY

When the Toronto Blues were playing the game the way they wanted to play it Saturday night, the Queen’s Golden Gaels were in trouble. Defending the fast break is not their forte.

When the Gaels prevented them from doing so, it was quite another story, and by the end of the game the Blues were stuck playing a game that really didn’t suit them.

Really didn’t suit them.

Toronto scored just six points in the fourth quarter and failed to score a basket in the final eight and a half minutes of play. As a result, Queen’s posted a 67-56 win in an Ontario University Athletics women’s basketball semifinal at the Athletics and Recreation Centre.

With the win, Queen’s eighth in a row, the Gaels earned a berth in the East division final next Saturday against the Carleton Ravens, 57-39 winners over Ottawa Saturday night in the other division semifinal. That game, with a berth in the national championship at stake, will be played at Queen’s.

The Gaels, first-place finisher with a 16-6 record in the regular season, took a 19-10 lead by the end of the first quarter but the Blues scored 24 points in the second quarter to cut the Queen’s lead to four points. Toronto tied the game 38-38 early in the second half and though the Blues never went ahead, the game remained close, with Queen’s leading 56-52 two and a half minutes into the fourth quarter.

By then, however, the Gaels defence had turned off the Blues’ tap and with Liz Boag scoring six of her team’s last eight points, Queen’s won going away.

Gaels coach Dave Wilson said Toronto is at its best when it scores off transition. “They don’t score in the quarter-court offence,” he said, “at least, not against us.

“It sounds so fundamental but the biggest thing we did was take care of the ball on offence. If we have a good offensive possession they don’t get to run out on us as much and they did run in the second quarter. They got a number of transition points so we didn’t have a chance to play our five-person defence.

“We got that cleaned up a little bit better in the second half.”

Gaels wing Jenny Wright said the game was “definitely a battle.”

“Our main focus is defence,” she said. “Our team defence is what we hang our hat on. We get our energy from our defence and when we’re back there in our half-court defence we’re solid.

“We got some good stops in our half-court defence but we were having a little bit of trouble on their fast breaks. They were getting transition layups on it, but we were able to cut that down by taking care of the ball on offence. We were more patient and we outrebounded them. With that, we were able to find some success.”

The Gaels led by nine points going into the final minute of the third quarter when Toronto’s Jill Stratton hit a pair of three-point baskets, both coming off transition. That gave her 15 points in the game, but it proved to be the last time the Blues’ leading scorer would find the basket.

“Stratton’s a very good shooter but even off screens we had the help side running out at her so she didn’t get that open shot that she was getting early in the game, and we were taking care of defensive rebounds.”

The Gaels changed defences from time to time, Wilson said, in a bid to keep the Blues off balance.

“We went with what we call our small lineup instead of our big lineup, so instead of having two posts on the floor we went to one post and four perimeter players. That gave us a little bit more speed on the floor. It stopped their run-outs and also (gave us) a little more attack on the offensive end.

“What we’re always looking for is creating mismatches, who can stop whom. They have some kids on their team who are very good shooters but they’re not great defenders, so when we go small they end up with a player that’s not a great defender against someone who’s an attack player, who can attack on the dribble, and that helps us a lot.”

Neither team shot particularly well — Queen’s with 36 per cent success from the field, Toronto 33 per cent — neither team made a third of its three-point attempts and the Gaels were only 56 per cent from the foul line.

Boag led the Gaels with 21 points, including a 4-for-10 performance from beyond the arc. Wright finished with 16 points and Robyn Pearson had a team-best 11 rebounds as Queen’s had a 28-13 edge under its own glass.

Alicia Van Kampen had 17 points and 11 rebounds for the Blues, who finished fourth in the regular year at 12-10.

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