The women’s basketball Tigers fell 69-56 to the Cape Breton Capers in their quarterfinal matchup of the AUS championships in the Scotiabank Centre on Friday March 4.
With the loss the Tigers were eliminated from the AUS championships.
“We’ve had a great season in so many ways,” said Tigers head coach Anna Stammberger. “Our record doesn’t show that. I feel strongly that our record was not indicative of how good a team we were.”
The Tigers lost team captain, leading scorer and 2015-16 first-team AUS all-star Tessa Stammberger to a broken arm Feb. 7 at Memorial and the injury changed the season’s trajectory.
“It was a huge loss,” said Ainsley MacIntyre, the teams other captain, of Tessa’s injury. “I just keep replaying it over and over in my mind.”
The game against the Capers started well for the Tigers. They opened up on a 6-2 run with baskets from Shalyn Field, Ainsley MacIntyre and Michaela Barresi.
The Capers changed their approach and switched to a full court press and the game swung in their favour.
Without their primary ball-handler in Tessa the Tigers struggled to break the press and started to turn the ball over.
“That was definitely a weak point for us,” said Anna. “Our guards played hard but they are very young and they weren’t the real point guards so that was challenging for us.”
The Capers went on a 19-6 run to end the quarter up 21-12.
Field and MacIntyre, who is a forward, were able to find some success breaking the press in the second quarter but the Capers pressure forced eight turnovers in the frame.
3:42 into the quarter MacIntyre made a beautiful spin-move to her right hand to finish off the window and make the game 26-16 Capers.
Deidre Alexander mixed a couple jumpers and a drive for a layup for six-points to keep the Tigers within striking distance. They went into the break down 34-24.
The second half was much like the first, as the Capers press continued to give the Tigers fits.
“We practiced breaking the press all week, I think maybe the big arena (was a factor) I’m not really sure, it’s just unfortunate we kind of got caught up in it,” said Macintyre on the team’s struggles on Friday.
“I think it was a bit of both, some of our guards not making the best decisions but then again some of our posts weren’t coming back to get open for them. It’s just something you can learn from,” she said.
The Capers were able to grow their lead in the third and took a 57-35 lead into the fourth.
Alexander opened the fourth with a sweet drive to her left hand to make it 57-37.
Field then went coast-to-coast for a layup to bring it to 57-39 but then the Capers pressure forced another turnover and the lead was back to 20 at 59-39.
The Tigers were able to shrink the lead down the stretch. Alexander hit a couple jumpers, Barresi made two free-throws and 2015-16 AUS all-rookie team member Sophie Gaube drained a three for the 69-56 final.
Alexander was named player of the game for the Tigers while MacIntyre earned defensive player of the game. Colleen Keane earned player of the game and Valentina Primossi defensive player of the game honours for the Capers.
“Obviously we’re disappointed with today,“ said Alexander. “The season had a few bumps to it but I think that our willingness as a team to work hard every game and really come together is something that we’re really proud of.”
Alexander led the Tigers with 20PTS, 3REb, 2AST and 2STL. Sarah Preston-Thomas came off the bench with 10PTS, 3REB and 1AST. MacIntyre finished up with 7PTS, 6REB and 2AST. Field had 7PTS, 4REB and 3AST. Gaube and fellow 2015-16 AUS all-rookie team member Christina Brown added 3PTS with 2REB, 2AST and 3REB, 1BLK respectively. Chika Chiekwe added 2PTS and 5REB. Megan Thompson hauled in 6REB and 1STL, while Ashley Cain had 2AST, 1REB, 1STL and 1BLK.
Keane led the Panthers with 18PTS, 7REB, 4STL and 3AST. Alison Keogh added 15PTS and 5REB. Primossi finished with 14PTS, 4REB, 3AST and 2STL, while Hannah Brown came off the bench with 12PTS and 3REB.
The Panthers went on to beat the Acadia Axewomen 59-57 to make the final, where hey lost to the SMU Huskies 63-49. The Huskies have now won four consecutive AUS championships.
Despite the early exit from the championships this was a Tigers team that exceeded some expectations this season. They were picked to finish last in a preseason coach’s poll. They lost several games by only one-point and were in a contention for a higher seed before Tessa’s injury.
“We were an excellent team in team cohesiveness and team spirit and team energy. We had a great culture” said Anna.