By Devin Jones
For the first time in program history the Ryerson Rams women’s basketball team are Ontario University Athletics champions, after defeating the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees Saturday night.
In a back and forth affair early on, it was the strong defensive presence from forward Sofia Paska and strong offensive shooting from veteran Silvana Jez, allowed the Rams to pull away with the lead and ultimately the 66-60 win against the home court Gee-Gees.
The Rams got off to a shaky start defensively; drawing four fouls within the first quarter. But despite early troubles the Rams were able to keep within two points of Ottawa, eventually tying it up 12-12 half way through the quarter. The depth of the Rams was on full display during the early going, as strong defensive play from fourth year guard C’airah Gabriel-Robinson forced the turnover, leading to OUA player of the year Keneca Pingue-Giles to tie up the game. It took Ryerson much of the first quarter to establish a strategy to defend Ottawa fast paced game. At the end of the first quarter the Rams held a single 16-15 point lead thanks to a last minute Katherine Follis layup.
Early in the second quarter it was clear that Ottawa didn’t have an answer for the Rams’ quick transition game, allowing the Rams to push to a 22-15 lead and forcing OUA coach Andy Sparks to call a Gee-Gees time-out. Coupled with her strong defensive play in the paint, Paska was able to score at will, knocking down a team high 19 points throughout the game. But Giles got into foul trouble late into the second quarter as she pulled in her third personal foul of the game.
The Rams’ exterior defensive game kept Ottawa on the outside, forcing them to shoot from afar, with nothing going for the Gee-Gees. To ensure success on Saturday the Rams had to effectively defend Gee-Gees guard Julia Soriano, and they did exactly that, holding her to only five points on the night. Ryerson went into halftime holding a 29-27 lead.
Coming back out for the second half the Rams picked up where they left off, pushing out their lead to 37-34 with two points coming from Paska at the foul line. Rams veteran Mariah Nunes also had an explosive night, putting up 17 points and grabbing 8 rebounds — at one point stealing back her own rebound and coming up with a big two points giving the Rams a 39-34 lead. A quick transition off a missed Ottawa layup saw Giles and Paska streak down the court, and as Giles missed the initial basket, Paska was close behind to throw up the rebound, adding to her 19 points on the night. At the end of the third quarter the Rams held a 52-47 heading into the fourth.
The fourth quarter showed off why veteran experience is so crucial when it comes down to the wire, as they were able to maintain a tight 54-51 point lead. Despite the Gee-Gees’ ability to push the lead within one, the Rams maintained composure, forcing their style of fast paced play. And with two minutes left in the game, the Rams were within reach of program history, and as the buzzer sounded with the Rams celebrating on the court, Ryerson history was made as the women’s basketball team was able to secure their first gold medal and OUA banner.
Now the Rams will head out east to take part in the CIS championships starting next week at the University of New Brunswick starting March 17.