Women’s Lions will defend their basketball crown on Sunday

The York Lions women’s basketball team beat the Laurentian Voyageurs, 64-61, in a semi-final playoff nail-biter on Wednesday at the Tait Mckenzie Centre. Now the Lions are encouraging their fans to head down to the University of Toronto this Sunday, at 1pm, to help support the team as they head into the most important women’s basketball game of the season.

The Lions (19-4) and the Varsity Blues (19-4) will be squaring off in an all-Toronto battle for the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) East championship at the University of Toronto Athletic Centre, 55 Harbord St., on the south-east corner of Harbord and Spadina. The Lions are gunning for their third consecutive OUA East crown. If York beats U of T, the Lions will play host to the OUA final on March 1 at the Tait McKenzie Centre.The winner of that game advances to the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) national championship tournament, March 7-9 in Saskatoon, Sask.

On Wednesday, the Lions fought back from a 10-point third-quarter deficit to extend their home winning streak against OUA East opponents to 26 games.  

York Lions Tara Minicuci, Brenan Rurak and Emily Van Hoof
Above: From left, Tara Minicuci, Brenan Rurak and Emily Van Hoof

The second half of the game was full of tense action, as the teams went back and fourth, leaving the large crowd on edge. Lions forward Emily Van Hoof had a dominating effort as she drained a jump shot along with a foul shot in the last minute of the game. Brenan Rurak’s solid defensive play on Voyageurs star Cassandra Carpenter made a huge impact, allowing York to gain and maintain a lead in the game. And in her return from an ankle injury after a six-game absence, star guard Laura MacCallum came off the bench to contribute seven points, including an important three-point shot that put York up by five in the fourth quarter.

Carpenter, the CIS career-leading scorer, cut the Lions’ lead to one with under a minute left but the Voyageurs could not get over the hump. As time wound down, York guard Tara Minicuci held on to the ball, securing a thrilling victory.

"We struggled from an offensive-rhythm standpoint early in the game," Lions head coach Bill Pangos said. "We had a 19-10 lead (after the first quarter), but we just didn’t have a rhythm. So, I decided to go with my veterans down the stretch and they responded."

Van Hoof led all players with 25 points and 12 rebounds in her best game of the season. Rurak followed with 13 points and five rebounds. Carpenter had 12 points for Laurentian in an impressive performance in her final game as a Voyageur.

As for Sunday’s prospects, the Lions and Blues split their two-game series this season with each team winning at home. The game will be shown on tape delay on Sunday, at 4pm, on Rogers York Region.