The national championships went all the way to overtime before VIU was defeated.
The Northern Alberta Institute of Technology Ooks beat the Vancouver Island University Mariners 76-71 in OT in the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association championship final Sunday, March 27, in the VIU gym.
The game was a back-and-forth affair, with the Ooks leading for entire first half, but the Mariners leading by two heading into the fourth quarter. The M’s had a chance to win as they had a possession with 10 seconds left in regulation, but the game went to OT and the Mariners had a hard time getting good looks at the basket.
“They played well. They made more plays than we did…” said Tony Bryce, coach of the Mariners. “They made shots, they made us uncomfortable, they played us physical.”
Although he gave full credit to the opponent, he suggested the national final brought a new level of pressure for his team.
“I think maybe for the first time this weekend, we kind of got caught up in the moment a little bit more than we have,” Bryce said. “It’s an overwhelming environment and situation and I felt at times tonight that impacted us more so than it had.”
He said the tournament organizers did a fantastic job and said to make the final and then make it to overtime, his team had a crack and it’s hard to ask for anything more than that.
“We just unfortunately didn’t come out on top…” he said. “It wasn’t from a lack of trying. I’m still super proud of my girls. I love ‘em to bits.”
The silver medal is the first medal of any colour for the VIU women’s basketball program since the Malaspina Mariners won gold in 1998 in Toronto.
Meanwhile, the NAIT Ooks completed something of a Cinderella run to win the program’s first-ever CCAA championship.
“We came out just wanting to play our hardest and play together and that’s what we did and that’s how we won,” said Hallie Watt, who was chosen tournament MVP.
She and her teammates had to contend not only with the opponents on the court, but also the atmosphere in the packed gym.
“It was tough to stay composed when you have so many people chirping you the whole time, but it was fun and it was something that we’ll never forget,” she said.
Aphia Ward, chosen player of the game for NAIT, said the Ooks never assumed they were going to win and tried to do the things they do best while preventing the Mariners from dictating the game plan. She said her team was able to keep its composure and stick together, something that carried them through the season and to a national title.
“It was our tenacity and our resiliency,” she said. “We had the odds stacked against us coming in as a wild card, as the lowest seed. We stayed together. We’re a family, we’re a team … we care about each other and we always have each others’ backs.”
Ward led all scorers with 20 points, Carly McHarg had 16 points and 12 rebounds, Lucy Wilde contributed 14 points, Watt had 12 points and 12 boards and Aliyah Johnson scored 12 points.
The Mariners were led by player of the game Shayce Johnston, who had 16 points and 14 rebounds. Sydney Fetterly and Ranika Guyton had 11 points each. Mariners players Amber Lease and Harriette Mackenzie were chosen first-team all-stars.