REGINA, Sask. (from Carleton Ravens) — A storybook season came to a close on Sunday night in front of an energetic crowd, many of whom were Ravens fans who had made the trip from Ottawa to support Carleton. The Ravens used a furious second half to defeat the Saskatchewan Huskies 69-48 and earn their first Canadian university national title.
Fourth-year forward Elizabeth Leblanc (London, Ont.) scored 12 points, knocking down 7-of-8 from the free throw line, while also grabbing nine rebounds and dishing out three assists in 34 minutes of floor time.
“Everything that we’ve worked for is coming together. It’s surreal, it’s exciting, to do this with our best friends, it’s beyond anything I could ask for,” Leblanc said.”
“We wanted to end with a bang and we did it. We wanted to do it last year and we knew that we could get it done and this just proves it.”
The Ravens faced a tough task in the Saskatchewan Huskies, who were fresh off an emphatic victory the night before over the hometown team, the Regina Cougars. Carleton fell into an early 8-2 hole after Summer Masikewich split a pair of free throws. Fifth-year guard Steph Carr (Stittsville, Ont.) checked in moments later and made an instant impact, recording a steal and drilling a three-pointer. Saskatchewan had a response of their own as Kyla Shand and Masikewich each hit layups to ensure the Huskies entered the second quarter ahead 15-9.
Carleton began to gather its stride in the second quarter. Centre Heather Lindsay (Ottawa, Ont.) opened the frame with one of her patented hook shots. Veteran leaders Catherine Traer (Chelsea, Que.) and Leblanc took charge in the quarter. Leblanc canned a three to pull Carleton to within 17-16, and Traer followed minutes later with a three-pointer from the wing that gave the Ravens the lead at 22-19. But Masikewich was able to answer for the Huskies, finishing the half with 13 points, including two free throws that gave Saskatchewan a 25-24 lead at the break.
Fifth-year forward Nicole Gilmore (Hamilton, Ont.) exemplified the Ravens’ tough demeanour in the third quarter. Gilmore had been nursing an injury throughout the Final 8 tournament, but nailed back-to-back threes to give the Ravens a 32-30 lead. Gilmore’s tenacious play inspired her teammates, as Cynthia Dupont (Coaticook, Que.) converted an and-one opportunity and later cut to the basket and finished off a nice pass from Leblanc to put the Ravens ahead 41-32 midway through the third quarter. The lead swelled to double digits, but the Huskies were able to slice into the deficit after Shand split a pair of free throws to enter the fourth quarter behind 48-39.
Ravens fans are no stranger to the essential contributions of key reserves like Dupont and forward Alyssa Cerino (Stoney Creek, Ont.). Cerino stroked a three-pointer to push Carleton’s lead to 58-40 and Gilmore followed with a runner in traffic to put the Ravens ahead 60-40, forcing Saskatchewan head coach Lisa Thomaidis to call a timeout. Despite the Huskies’ best efforts to regroup, the Ravens’ aggressive play forced Saskatchewan to commit fouls and allowed Carleton to earn a bonus situation for the rest of the game. Two free throws by Leblanc pushed the score to 67-41 with three minutes left in the game. The Ravens’ suffocating defence provided more than enough insurance the rest of the way as Carleton closed out the championship game 69-48.
Somebody is DEFINITELY cutting some onions around here 😭😭 pic.twitter.com/6vAz7MA8o9
— Carleton Ravens (@CURavens) March 12, 2018
“They were absolutely a tough test, they’re very well coached, but they were in a war yesterday against Regina,” head coach Taffe Charles said.
“I thought in the second half we wore them down. We knew they didn’t go very deep. We’ve been deep all year and we got some dynamics. To be honest with you, Gilmore coming to a bit more health really helped this team.”