By Ben Waldman
If basketball and ping-pong were to merge, the result would look a lot like the Ryerson women’s basketball team’s 77-71 victory over the University of Guelph Gryphons on Wednesday night.
The lead was never safe. Each time Ryerson began pulling away, the scrappy Gryphons clawed back and vice versa.
Like a pendulum, the game’s momentum swung constantly. Luckily for the Ryerson faithful, their team got the last laugh, not taking the final lead change for granted.
“That was a definite team win,” said Rams guard Cara Tiemens. “We pushed through and [kept] our composure.”
Tiemens struggled early on, missing three of four first-half free throw attempts and not connecting from three-point range, usually a strong aspect of her game. As Tiemens persevered, so did the team, and coach Carly Clarke was ecstatic to see her first-year point guard step up in the second half.
“I’m thrilled with Cara,” said Clarke. “She made some huge plays down the stretch that showed composure. She’s becoming a leader on the court.”
In rough, gruelling victories like this one, the importance of team depth increases, and Ryerson had Guelph beat in that category. The Rams bench contributed 29 points to the Gryphons’ 12.
Forward Sofia Paska, Ryerson’s six-foot-four rookie, played with newfound intensity, finishing with 18 points and six rebounds, four of which came on the offensive glass.
“[She] was as tough as I’ve seen her,” Clarke said.
Paska’s late game heroics came not in the deep post, but at the charity stripe, where she sunk all eight of her attempts, including a six for six fourth quarter performance. She is more than just height; she is an all-around threat, and a terrific complement to the stellar backcourt.
If Paska and starting centre Siki Jez were the team’s engines, guard Keneca Pingue-Giles was the fuel.
Giles’ playmaking and aggressive style were contagious and her teammates fed off the opportunities she created for them. Her shot wasn’t dropping, but that helped keep the defense honest, freeing up lanes to be filled by Paska, Jez and their underrated partner Annie Sokoloff.
“Six for 20?” Giles laughed as she saw the box score. “It took me 20 shots to get 17 [points]? We got the ‘W’ though, and that’s all that matters anyway.”
Now that the dust has settled and the final basket has been counted, the Rams can rest easy thanks to some important peace of mind: their lead is safe at last.
The Rams take on Lakehead University on Saturday, Feb. 7 at 6 p.m. at the Mattamy Athletic Centre.