‘We’re figuring out how to play together’: The women’s basketball team’s road to success

by | Feb 10, 2023 | Sports

How well a team gels together is a huge factor to a season’s success, and the women’s team just couldn’t get things rolling in the early part of the 2022-23 season. After they won last year’s ACAC Championship, the team saw considerable turnover–the entire roster has players in their first and second year of eligibility. This led to the Ooks losing the first six conference games. 

Chemistry isn’t instant, but as this young lineup found their footing, things started to improve in October and November. 

A convincing 71-44 win over last-place Medicine Hat College on November 18 stemmed the early slump, and two weeks later, they beat Keyano in a 74-70 thriller. The series of wins must have boosted their confidence heading into the Winter break, because the Ooks have racked up a few more successes.  

In their most recent games the offense has been electric. The Ooks achieved their season’s three highest-scoring outbursts, and the defense has matched. They’ve regularly held their opponents to fewer than 60 points.

Photos by NAIT Athletics

Head Coach Kiera Lyons reinforced that the team’s growing chemistry is the key to their recent success.

“We’re figuring out how to play together,” Lyons said prior to a game against the Concordia Thunder. “There’s a lot of new faces, in a lot of new roles starting this season, and we needed a bit of a buffer to get used to how we needed to play to win, and we’re starting to figure that out a little bit.”

Most of the scoring comes from the sisterly connection of Ellie and Lucy Wilde. They both have a shooting percentage near or above 33 per cent, while nabbing rebounds at incredible rates. Ellie was also named the NAIT Women’s Athlete of the week for Jan. 9. Payton Neilson has fueled that connection, leading the team in minutes per game. She also ranks third in assists per game, behind only the Wildes. Abi Payne has moved from the bench to a spot in the starting rotation. She’s added three-point dimension to the team with a 34 per cent threes-per-game clip. At forward, Kaytlyn Poberznick is the key to the shut-down defense, leading the lineup with an average of 5.5 rebounds per game. 

All of the team’s remaining opponents are in playoff positions presently, and will present a competitive challenge for the Ooks- something Coach Lyons welcomes.

“[You] always want to see how you match up with the best in the league, so yeah of course, it’s a tough matchup for the second semester, but [we’re] always looking forward to the challenge.”

With Northwestern Polytechnic lagging well behind the pack in the ACAC North, the Ooks are primed to, at minimum, enter the play-in round for a shot at going to Championship Weekend.

With the second half they’ve been having, this young Ooks team is proving anything is possible–even a CCAA title defense.

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