TORONTO (U SPORTS) – The Acadia Axewomen battled for an 86-74 victory to eliminate the Concordia Stingers in the Consolation semifinal on Friday night at the Mattamy Athletic Centre. The win is the first win at a National Championship for the Axewomen program since their first visit in 2012.
Off the top, it was a defensive struggle for the Stingers and Axewomen after the first basket was scored two minutes into the first quarter. Acadia's Lanae Adams (Lawrenceville, GA) sunk a three to start the game but both teams continued to maintain a strong defence for the Axewomen to only lead 5-2 halfway through the first quarter.
The Axewomen advanced with strong passes and a quick pace to move around the Stingers' defence as best as possible. But the Stingers were able to get past Acadia's defence to pull out a 15-14 lead at the end of the quarter. Myriam Leclerc took each opportunity at the net and converted her shots, tallying 21 points in the frame.
The Stingers attacked the Axewomen's defence, but it was a quarter of turnovers, resulting in back and forth points. Halfway through the quarter the Stingers led 26-24.
The Axewomen challenged the Stingers as Haley McDonald (Port Williams, NS) was effective on the screen, but she was also comfortable atop the circle to score three of her game-high 34 points for the Axewomen.
"I think they were chasing a lot of balls and playing me really physical, so I can use that to my advantage to create a lot of space, step backs, faking and go for a hand off by kind of backing up, and I think that was really successful for me today," said McDonald. "They were just a really physical team, and I think we outmatched their physicality, which was a goal of ours."
The Stingers took advantage of each opportunity given to maintain the lead 36-35 into halftime.
"They have some fantastic shooters so we definitely wanted to keep them off the line," added McDonald. "We were chasing a lot of balls, and our posts were doing a great job of shocking the person that was curling, so that definitely helped us. We wanted to make their lives as hard as possible today."
Into the third, the Stingers were able to sneak their way through the Axewomen's defence and drive to the net. The Stingers matched up well to the Axewomen and handled their blocks to get deep in their zone.
Acadia had a 45-44 lead at the halfway point of the quarter, although the Stingers continued to push past the Axewomen and their blocker to find the net. The Stingers passed the ball well, calling strategic plays and Caroline Task (Dorval, Que.) was there for the three. At the end of the third, the Stingers were up 58-56.
In the fourth, the Axewomen pushed deep into the zone and made cross-court passes to move in on the Stingers. The strategy earned them their own rebounds and allowed them to capitalize on different changes to tie the Stingers at 64. Adams earned another three and Ellen Hat (Fall River, NS) hit one of her own to advance the Axewomen 72-66 halfway through the final quarter.
Task drained another three to minimize the gap for the Stingers. To return the favour, McDonald effortlessly saw another three atop the point to seal the win for the Axewomen.
"We stayed aggressive and were fearless. A lot of people on our team are shooters, so we know that we have to drive in to draw people in and get them the ball," said Concordia's Areej Burgonio (Toronto, Ont.). "This is where I grew up, this is where my craft started and it sucks that things didn't go our way, but it just means we have to get back in the gym."
The Axewomen will play on Sunday at 11 a.m. ET / 8 a.m. PT against the winner of Ryerson and Regina in the consolation final.
"We just have to play our game. A lot of these teams like to play slower games and a lot of sets, where we are more a transition team. So we have to make sure were not slowing it down when we have lots of possessions," said McDonald.
"If we play super hard and bring as much energy as we can, I think we can match any of the teams here. We have tons of energy, we're super physical, we know what we want to do, and I think if we stick to our scouts we will be very successful here."
Players of the Game
Acadia Axewomen: Haley McDonald
Concordia Stingers: Myriam Leclerc