Senior Gabriela Hebert and All-Canadian Mariam Sylla eached produced “double-doubles” as the No.3-seeded Martlets beat the No.6-seeded Saint Mary’s Huskies in the opening game of the ArcelorMittal CIS Final 8 women’s basketball championships at the Centre PEPS, Thursday.
McGill (1-0) advances to a semifinal matchup against No.2 seeded UBC (1-0) on Saturday at 12 p.m. live on Sportsnet U and www.cis-sic.tv. This is the first semifinal appearance since 1996 when the program managed a bronze medal. It will in fact be the first appearance of an RSEQ team in a CIS semifinal since the Laval Rouge et Or in 2008.
The Martlets absolutely dominated the glass, out-rebounding the AUS champion Huskies 51-24, including 18 in offensive zone. This gave McGill 13 more field-goal opportunities than the Huskies which they converted into an 11-0 advantage in second chance points.
Hebert had a 19-point, 12 rebound performance while Sylla produced 12 points and 11 rebounds. She struggled converting from the floor going 3-for-10 but was a perfect 6-for-6 from the line.
Hebert, a co-captain, who was named as McGill’s player of the game, shot 7-for-15 from the field, made 2-of-8 from three-point range and went 3-for-4 from the charity stripe.
“Gab offered a huge performance,” said Martlets head coach Ryan Thorne. “She took advantage of her scoring opportunities, shooting when she was open and she hit the glass hard. That’s what she is supposed to do.”
Dianna Ros, another fourth year captain, also impressed registering 10 points, seven assists, four steals and two rebounds. Rounding out the scoring for the Martlets was Jennifer Silver (8), Alex Kiss-Rusk (8), Marie-Pier Bastrash (7) and Carolann Cloutier (3).
Third-year guard Angelina Carvery led SMU with a game-high 21 points, shooting 7-of-15 from the floor including a 4-for-9 performance from downtown. Laura Langille also reached double figures for the Huskies with 18 points.
The Martlets were up 60-42 with nine minutes remaining in the fourth quarter but had to repel a late surge from the Huskies, who quickly cut the lead to five by the four-minute mark. McGill however, was able to seal the deal down the stretch with key rebounds and clutch free-throw shooting.
Both teams struggled with nerves in the opening quarter, with neither finding an offensive rhythm. Once settled, however, it was the hot three-point shooting of Saint Mary’s trio of Langille, Alexandra Smye and Emma Valikoski that gave the Huskies an 11-7 lead. McGill responded just before the break with two quick transition baskets and the teams were locked at 11-11 after the first quarter.
Both teams piled on the points in the second. forging a seven-point lead, thanks to the hot three-point shooting of Langille and Carvery.
Down by seven, McGill closed the gap and eventually took the lead at 24-22 on a Dianna Ros three-pointer and by halftime, the Martlets were ahead 30-26. McGill forced the Huskies into several turnovers including an intercepted pass by Ros, which lead to an easy basket for Mariam Sylla and a 49-41 lead. McGill’s defence, which was ranked second on the nation during the regular season, stifled SMU and was highlighted by a monstrous block from centre Alex Kiss-Rusk, who was not expected to play after suffering a sparined ankle in last week’s RSEQ championship game. Quickly after Hebert dropped a number of treys to extend McGill’s lead to 55-42 going into the final frame.
After a Carolann Cloutier bucket gave the Martlets a 60-42 advantage and it seemed McGill was on their way to an easy victory. The Huskies, however, made things interesting late following 13 straight points to close the gap to 60-55.In the end, the Huskies free-throw shooting killed any chance of a comeback, most notably when first-year forward Shanieka Wood missed four of six attempts in the last two minutes. They finished with a dismal 10-for-21 effort from the line.
McGill shot 36.8.per cent from the floor, 26.1 from three-point land and went 11-for-12 from the foul-line. The Huskies shot 34.5 from the field and connected on 11-of-27 from long range.
Saint Mary’s, the CIS finalists from last year, cannot finish higher than fifth. The Huskies will face the Ryerson Rams in the first game of Friday’s consolation bracket at 6 p.m.