Niagara ready to host OCAA championships
The host Niagara College women’s basketball team will be challenged right off the start at the Ontario Colleges Athletic Association championships.
Niagara will play Algonquin in the quarter-finals Friday at 6 p.m. Algonquin placed first in the OCAA East with a 14-0 record.
“I expect a tough game on Friday night and I expect us to come out and play hard,” Knights head coach Chris Rao said. “It will be hard no matter what and hopefully we can take care of business Friday night and give ourselves a chance at a medal.”
Algonquin is ranked fifth in Canada heading into the OCAA championships.
“We are excited about the matchup,” he said. “Algonquin is a good team but we have seen them all year and they had a great season in the OCAA East. It is exciting to play great teams at this time of year. It is a cool opportunity to show what we are made of.”
The recipe for success is simple.
“We have to be really physical and we have to make them do things they don’t want to do. I know that sounds a little cliche but if we can force them into things they don’t want then we will be OK. I like our matchups and we have to make sure we dominate the glass,” Rao said.
Like all teams, the Knights have made progress during the regular season.
“We have a couple of players who were here at the start of the year and who aren’t here now. The main thing is we have kept a really strong core together, kids who believe and kids who have gotten better every single day.”
Rao describes his roster as a battle-tested group.
“We have three rookies but the other six players are battle-tested. One played at Brock and the other ones played here and were on a medal-winning team (OCAA bronze),” he said. “We have scrimmaged against university teams and played a tough schedule so we are ready to go and ready for this weekend of games.”
Statistical leaders for Niagara are: Jamira Rouseau (Notre Dame), 10.2 points, four rebounds, four assists and two steals per game; Taryn Mitchell (E.L. Crossley), 13.9 points and 4.8 rebounds per game; Janee Harrison (Sir Winston Churchill), 9.9 points and 5.8 rebounds per game; Molly Taylor (A.N. Myer), eight points and 8.7 rebounds per game; and, Kate Roth, 6.3 points and 7.1 rebounds per game.
Rao feels it is an advantage to play at home.
“Someone asked me yesterday if there was more pressure and I said, ‘Not really.’ These are win or go home games and there’s not added pressure or less pressure,” he said. “It’s nice to be home. You get to sleep in your own beds. It is a privilege to have and a special thing but other than it being a home game, it doesn’t add or subtract to the meaning of the game.”
Niagara heads into the OCAA championships healthy.
Quarter-final action starts Friday with games at 1, 3, 6 and 8 p.m. Semifinals will be contested Saturday at 3:30 and 6 p.m. Sunday’s schedule sees the bronze-medal game at 1 p.m. and the championship game at 3:30 p.m.
Ticket prices are $15 for the weekend and $10 per day. Children under 12 are free.
Niagara’s men’s basketball team also punched its ticket to the OCAA championships with a 86-47 pounding of the visiting Loyalist Lancers in first-round, crossover playoff action.
Loyalist (10-9 overall) led 16-14 after one quarter before the Knights (12-7 overall) took over by outscoring the Lancers 51-19 in the middle two quarters.
Top performers for Niagara were: Delroy Grandison with 21 points; Rahim Bardi with 14 points; Mark Taylor with 12 points; Khayden Stewart with nine points and eight rebounds; and, Kennan Larmand with nine points.
Niagara will play George Brown in the OCAA championships in Windsor on Friday at 3 p.m. George Brown placed first in the OCAA East with a 17-1 record.