By Jack MacCool
Canada will have a new U Sports National Champion crowned in women’s basketball this year.
After battling with the No. 3 Carleton University Ravens until the final possession, the Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) women’s basketball team’s title defence came to an end on Feb. 25 at the Raven’s Nest in Ottawa.
The game, which ended with a score of 67-64, was a basketball slugfest. Both teams landed haymaker after haymaker, answering any run the other made with an emphatic response of their own. However, it was Carleton whose responses were just a little bit more impactful than the visiting Bold.
TMU forward Rachel Farwell led all scorers in the final game of her career, tallying 29 points, five rebounds and five assists. She carried TMU all game long, scoring timely basket after timely basket including nine straight Bold points in the fourth quarter. When the Bold ship needed to be righted, Farwell did the righting.
Jayme Foreman added 13 points in the game but was held scoreless in the game’s second half.
For the Ravens, it was a balanced attack. Five players recorded double-digit points with Kali Pocrnic leading the way with 14.
The heart of the defending national champions was on full display early in Saturday’s contest, coming out of the gates executing their offence at a high level. Foreman hit three of her four total three-pointers in the first quarter to help TMU lead by as many as eight.
The Ravens weathered the early Bold storm, closing the quarter strong and whittling down the TMU lead to just one entering the second quarter.
After the Bold opened the game strong, the second quarter was all Carleton. After Foreman nailed her fourth three on the quarter’s second possession, Carleton went on a run led by their defence, opening up a double-digit lead by the four-minute mark of the second.
The Bold scored just four points through the first eight minutes of the second and if it weren’t for three late scores from Farwell, the eight-point deficit TMU was facing entering the second half would have been in the mid-teens in favour of the No. 3 Ravens.
After 20 minutes, the Ravens led the Bold 41-33.
TMU turned the ball over 12 times in the opening half, a stark contrast to the 18 total turnovers the Bold recorded in their entire opening playoff game against the Western Mustangs. The Ravens also dominated the painted area in the first half, scoring 22 of their 41 points in the paint, in contrast to the Bold who tallied just 12.
The uptick in defensive intensity from TMU coming out of the halftime break was immediate and noticeable. The team forced a turnover and two jump balls in the early going and allowed just two points through the opening five minutes of the second half.
The Ravens’ lead that stood at eight at halftime was cut to six by TMU midway through the third, however Pocrnic began to take over down the stretch of the stanza. The second-year put in eight straight points for the Ravens as their lead swelled to 13. Farwell once again answered with her TMU career on the line, scoring on back-to-back Bold possessions.
With their season on the line, the TMU women’s basketball team trailed by 10 entering the fourth quarter, 54-44.
What would end up being the final quarter of the Bold season was filled with everything that made them a champion the year prior.
Down seven points with five minutes to play, the Bold put together one final push.
TMU forced three shot clock violations in the final three minutes, including one with eight seconds left, but were largely unable to capitalize on the other end. When things looked most dire, the Bold stole the ball and cut the lead to three.
With a chance to tie, the Bold were unable to get a good look and as a result, their season came to a close while the Ravens advanced to the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) semi-finals.
For the Bold, it was a season that originally looked bleak. The team dropped 10 of their first 11 games through conference and exhibition play, adjusting to a roster without four starters from the previous season’s national title and the newly minted target on their back that comes along with the title of defending champions.
The response after the rough start was everything. The team rattled off 14 of their next 18, beating some of the country’s best programs and reminding every team in the OUA conference that the Bold were still one of the top teams in the nation regardless of ranking.
A storied two-year run for the TMU women’s basketball program has come to a close.
UP NEXT: The Bold head into the off-season after a valiant defence of their national title.