The Mountaineers women’s basketball team welcomed the second-place St. Clair Saints to the David Braley Athletics and Recreation Centre on Saturday (Feb. 11) in a battle for the second, and final, automatic spot in the OCAA provincial playoffs.
The Mountaineers came in riding a three-game win streak which had the team sitting a half-game behind the Saints for sole possession of second place. Meanwhile, the Saints were fresh off a tough 61-53 defeat to the Fanshawe Falcons, another team with playoff plans.
After a back-and-forth first three quarters, the hometown Mountaineers exploded in the fourth to pull away for a decisive 83-56 win, taking over sole possession of second place in the OCAA west division.
In what had all the makings of a playoff-like atmosphere, the Mountaineers and Saints began the game by trading blows like heavyweight boxers. This made for an extremely competitive first quarter that saw the two teams shoot below 30 per cent from the field, as the superb defences took centre stage in the early going.
By the end of one half of play, the two teams were able to muster only 60 points in total as the hometown Mountaineers led by a basket, 31-29. Pacing the team in scoring at the break was forward Monika Batinic with nine of her eventual 14 points, on a stellar 3 of 4 shooting from three-point land.
The third quarter saw the game continue its tight defensive style as the Mountaineers forced seven of the 26 Saint turnovers in the quarter. Both teams were coming off miserable shooting performances in the first half that saw the teams shoot a combined 20 per cent from the field, and the game remained tight with the Mountaineers ahead by six heading into the final stanza.
That’s when the home side turned things up to a level that St. Clair clearly could not match. The Mountaineers poured in 29 points to just eight by the Saints and outscored them 12-4 in second-chance points en route to their 12th win of the season.
The win puts the Mountaineers in sole possession of second place in the OCAA west division and means the team controls its own playoff destiny going into the final two games of the 2016/17 regular season.
Up next for the Mountaineers is a trip to local rivals Redeemer College as the Mountaineers look to avenge their earlier loss at home to Redeemer back in late November.