The Western Mustangs women’s basketball team took on the 7–11 Laurier Golden Hawks this past Wednesday at Alumni Hall in front of a full crowd.
The Mustangs — coming off a tough weekend against a strong Lakehead Thunderwolves team — were hoping to end their two-game drought and climb their way back into a playoff position in their division.
Western appeared ready to play as they dominated the Golden Hawks in the first quarter. Veteran guard Maddy Horst had eight of the Mustangs 19 points in the first quarter, knocking down two corner threes and driving it hard to the rim in transition.
Horst played a demanding 38 minutes and was the engine of the Mustangs offence. Not only was Horst scoring efficiently — racking in 12 points of her own — but her consistent penetration opened up a variety of shots for her teammates.
Laurier struggled offensively due to the Mustangs passionate defensive intensity. With their strong effort on defence, impressive ball movement and penetration on the offensive end, the Mustangs were able to take the first quarter 19–10 over the Golden Hawks.
Laurier countered a strong Western first quarter with focus on defence and a 4–0 run to start the second quarter. The Golden Hawks strong defensive effort forced turnover after turnover from head coach Brian Cheng’s young roster.
The Mustangs guards continued to be aggressive with relentless drives to the rim. Although the guards in purple and white were assertive with their drives to the rim, they were struggling to get to the free throw line, only shooting four in the first half while Laurier shot seven.
Second-year guard Emma Johnson started to heat up toward the end of the second quarter, drilling two crucial threes to keep the Mustangs ahead. The Saskatoon native had an impressive outing, going 4-of-5 from three-point range. The Mustangs shot a notable 42 per cent from the arc in the first half.
The Mustangs were able to hold their lead despite being outscored in the quarter by a motivated Laurier team. The score finished 28–21 in favour of the Mustangs going into halftime.
However, the Mustangs lead broke down in the third quarter due to Laurier’s effectiveness in scoring from the mid-range and the paint.
Laurier forward Skye Johns and guard Brianna Iannazzo led the offensive charge for the Golden Hawks in the second half. Johns was able to shoot very efficiently from the mid-post and paint going 3-of-6 from the field, while also sinking 3-of-4 from the charity stripe.
“They challenged us on the inside,” Cheng said.
Horst and fellow guard Laura Graham continued to control things for Western offensively by penetrating and kicking to open shooters; however the Mustangs saw less success shooting the ball in the second half, going 3-of-15 from the arc.
Rookie forward Katie Bastedo began to produce more in the third quarter. The athletic forward was able to maneuver her way into the paint for some impressive finishes around the Laurier forwards. Bastedo had a team-high 13 points along with nine rebounds.
“She is really effective because of how athletic she is,” explained Cheng. “Katie is going to be a very good player given time, and she has taken some responsibilities to keep getting better and get more knowledge about our game and the game in general.”
Despite the offensive spark the rookie forward gave the Mustangs, Laurier was able to take the lead by the end of the third, 43–39.
Laurier continued to score inside as Western struggled to defend the Laurier posts. The Golden Hawks extended their lead in the fourth quarter going up by as much as 12 points midway through the fourth.
The Mustangs put on a full-court press in an attempt to force some Laurier turnovers, but the Golden Hawk guards handled the press methodically and had no trouble withstanding the pressure.
Offensively, the purple and white were much more stagnant in the fourth quarter.
“We are a little short-handed, and it compromised our ability to go inside and get some easy buckets,” Cheng explained when asked about the second half offensive struggles.
Ultimately, the Mustangs were not able to come back from their poor third quarter performance, and Laurier blew the lead open to capture a 60–54 win on the road.
“We played well, we just didn’t play well long enough,” explained Cheng. “We are battling very good teams without the full complement of our roster, and at the end of the day, you can see us battle for one, two, three quarters, but we are unable to complete four quarters. That will be our challenge moving forward.”
With the loss, the Mustangs fall to 5–14, putting them eighth in their division and two spots out of a playoff position. Every game is crucial for the Mustangs now as they try to keep their playoff hopes alive.
Hamilton is the next stop for the Mustangs, as they head there this Saturday to play the McMaster Marauders, who are atop the Ontario University Athletics West Division standings.