by David Conlin, Vikes Communication
Photos by Christian J. Stewart, Independent Sports News
March 11, 2017, VICTORIA, BC (U SPORTS) – The Laval Rouge et Or came out like a team possessed on Saturday afternoon, charging to a 45-29 half-time lead over the Queen’s Gaels on their way to a 78-67 victory in a U SPORTS Women’s Final 8 semifinal at the CARSA Performance Gym in Victoria.
The Rouge et Or move on to the final on Sunday (1:00 pm PDT), where they will play the McGill Martlets, upset winners over the Carleton Ravens in Saturday’s second semifinal (see related story). The Gaels will match up with Carleton at 10:00 am, with a chance to take home bronze.
For a team that entered the tournament seeded seventh after earning the wild-card berth, earning a trip to the national final was a particularly special accomplishment.
“This group is really focused now, they want to win and are engaged in the game plan so we are happy,” said Laval head coach Guillaume Giroux.
Laval was led on offence by fourth-year forward Raphaëlle Côté, who registered a double-double with a team-high 19 points and 11 rebounds to go with three assists. Third-year guard Claudia Émond followed her on the box score with 17 points and was named Player of the Game for her efforts.
“I’m a good shooter and in the first they let me shoot,” said Côté. “Those are shots I have to take and I did.”
The Rouge et Or experienced a slight power outage on offence in the fourth quarter, shooting just 30.8 per cent from the field, but their consistency through the first three quarters carried them to victory. Laval shot 50 per cent from the floor in both the first and third quarters and 46.7 per cent in the second.
“We struggled a bit more in the second half,” said Giroux. “We allowed 38 points too. We have to fix that and make sure that doesn’t happen tomorrow.”
After a slow start in their quarter-final on Thursday, the third seeded Gaels came out stronger on Saturday, hitting 43.8 per cent of their shots in the first quarter. But Queen’s ran into trouble in the second frame, which saw Laval outscore them 23-12.
“In the first quarter they burned us really badly from the three-point line and as we squeezed out, they penetrated the whole second quarter to score at the rim or get fouled,” said Queen’s head coach Dave Wilson. “It was a great adjustment by coach Giroux.”
Gemma Bullard had a big game for Queen’s on offence, registering 17 points to lead the Gaels in scoring. Emily Hazlett followed with 15 in the losing effort. Teammate Robyn Pearson had a strong game on the boards, grabbing 11 defensive boards and 13 rebounds total.
“That’s the beauty of having veterans … they remain calm in the face of the storm and bring the energy even when you’re getting crushed a little bit,” said Wilson when asked about Bullard.
With the victory, Laval will have a chance to play for their first Bronze Baby in program history on Sunday. That game will take place at 1:00 p.m. PDT on Sportsnet 360 and Sportsnet Now.