NAIT Ooks have added another new title to their ACAC championship – they are national bronze medallists.
The women proved they were a force to be reckoned with, opening their trip to Windsor, Ontario at the Nationals as they destroyed the VIU (Vancouver Island University) Mariners but fell in their next game against the Humber College Hawks and were forced to play an extra game to qualify for the bronze medal game.
In the bronze semifinal, the Ooks were back to their winning ways and advanced to the bronze medal game, where they tipped off against Dynamiques de Sainte-Foy in a tight game that went right down to the wire but the Ooks prevailed for a bronze medal.
Earlier, the Ooks steamrolled over the Mariners 74-36 in the opening game of the national tournament, scoring the game’s first 11 points and finished the opening quarter 14-5. Although the Mariners strung together nine points right before halftime, the Ooks still led 26-14 at the half. They remained relentless both offensively and defensively as the score gap between the teams got larger. Malesha Petterson played a large role in the win. Petterson finished with a game high 17 points on the night to earn Player of the Game honours.
The next day, there was much at stake for the Ooks after the lopsided victory. Another win would mean a trip to the gold medal game. Winning a national cham-pionship would be the perfect ending to an already successful season for the Ooks.
To get there, they had to get past the Humber College Hawks, the No. 2 seed in the Ontario College Athletics Associa-tion (OCAA). The Ooks started off well in the first quarter and led 13-11 but that would not hold up in the second quarter as the Hawks moved ahead 31-23 by halftime. Sloppy turnovers and missed assignments cost the Ooks in the second half of the game as the Hawks led by as much as 28 points in the fourth quarter. The Ooks were swimming upstream in this game and were not be able to close the gap, losing a tough one 78-58. Ook Chawncy McClenan put up 14 points, registered four blocks and cleared 12 rebounds as NAIT moved on to the bronze medal semifinal against the Nomades de Montmorency the next morning.
The Ooks were outscored 18-9 in the first quarter of the bronze semi, but rebounded quickly in the second for 15 more points and surrendered only seven more Montmorency points for the rest of the first half. They led 42-25 at the half. The score differential continued to grow as the Ooks found their scoring touch to stretch their lead to 24 points in the third. The fourth proved to be a different story, however, as Montmorency managed to come back and make it a one possession game at 56-54 late in the fourth quarter. Luckily, the Ooks were able to pull through and made a late push for an eventual 65-57 victory and advanced to the bronze medal game scheduled for the next day.
Against Montmorency, Torey Hill was a difference maker for the Ooks as she recorded a double-double by halftime in that game, finishing with 29 points and 15 rebounds.
In the bronze medal game against the Dynamiques de Sainte-Foy, NAIT mounted a comeback in the second half after trailing 41-38 at halftime, to lead by eight in the fourth quarter. Once again, the game came down to a final possession; Sainte-Foy had the ball in the final play before the buzzer, the Ooks were only up by one – next shot wins. A shot by Sainte-Foy missed the net, NAIT took possession and then the team erupted with emotion. The underdog Ooks, who never expected to make it this far, found themselves medalling at a national tournament.
Ook Nicole Ruptash finished off her college basketball career with a 16-point performance, which included four triples, to earn Player of the Game honours.
In head coach Todd Warnick’s sixth season with NAIT, this is the first year the Ooks have won a provincial title and their first national medal. Combined, the bar has been set for NAIT women’s basketball, as we look forward to what they will accomplish next season.