by Kim Elliot
The Lance – Sports Intern
Oh, how sweet it is to be members of the Windsor Lancers basketball nation.
The Lancer women’s basketball team earned their five-peat retention of the Bronze Baby trophy as the 2014-15 CIS Final 8 Champions in a 60-47 gold medal trouncing of the McGill Martlets. With their fifth consecutive CIS gold medal now safely in hand, the Lancers now share Canadian university hoops history along with the Laurentian Voyageurs, who were first to five-peat from 1975-1979.
Fifth-year Lancer players Korissa Williams and Jocelyn LaRocque simultaneously made history of their own. In leading their team to gold they made new history by claiming the Bronze Baby trophy in each of the past five seasons, something no other players have accomplished in the storied chronicles of CIS women’s basketball.
In the immediate afterglow of the 2015 CIS national championship game and regular season in the PEPS Gym of Université Laval, repeat CIS women’s basketball coach of the year, Windsor’s Chantal Vallee said she was really touched after her fifth straight national championship.
“Every championship is special, but this one is very special,” said Vallee. “My team only had nine healthy players for most of the season, so some of the girls had to play most of our games. And to win our fifth straight championship in Quebec City – where I am from – also made it very special.”
Williams led Windsor to the promise land in the national finals against McGill, scoring 21 points, securing 14 rebounds, dishing out seven assists and garnering six steals. Williams was named tournament MVP for her performances and was named a first-team all-Canadian and CIS defensive player of the year in a pre-tournament banquet Mar. 11.
“I feel complete. I finished my career a winner. I’m just really happy. I am especially happy with my teammates,” said Williams. “I got three fouls called against me early and my teammates just pushed and pushed and pushed. They picked up the slack that I left them with. I am really proud of my team’s performance in the final game and the whole weekend. They were in game mode, play-off mode and championship mode so they did not let the loss of one player overly affect them.”
Fellow five-time champion and second-team OUA all-star LaRocque said adding another championship to her resume is bittersweet.
“It’s great to have won the championship again, but it’s also hitting me now that this is the end of my basketball career,” said LaRocque.
Although the Lancers led comfortably 21-10 at the first quarter, 34-26 at the half and 45-38 after three quarters, the stubborn Martlets pushed the Lancer backs against the wall with only one basket separating them in the fourth quarter. The Lancers refused to fold however and Vallee praised her team for their poise.
“We just hold [on defense], go back down and push on the next plays to get our scores,” said Vallee. “It happens in basketball games. There’s runs but no big deal – don’t panic, just react as champions.
During the tournament Mar. 12, coach Vallee easily guided her number one seeded Lancers past eighth-seeded host Laval Rouge et Or 91-57. Vallee then directed Windsor past the very determined No. 4 Saskatchewan Huskies 75-61 in the second semi-final game, Mar. 14. The win set up Windsor’s rugged championship duel with the tough minded No.3 McGill Martlets who upset the No.2 UBC Thunderbirds 59-57 in overtime of the first semi-final.
LaRocque said the preparation Vallee gives her team in practices throughout the year and with in-depth game plans is why she shares such a unique record with Williams as the only female players to win five CIS national championships.
“Honestly she just knows what she’s doing. Pushing to your limits every single day so when it comes down to the national championship you’ve been there before,” said LaRocque. “Sometimes we’ve been emotionally pushed further than what you might encounter in a game so we don’t get overwhelmed.”
Fellow graduate and now two-time national champion Kristine Lalone said going out in her fifth year as a national champion feels amazing.
“I am so proud of my team. We just stuck to our game plan and I can’t be more happy right now,” said LaLonde. “When I play I just accept my role of setting everyone up and taking my shots when I need to, just as everyone else on the team accepted their role.
Lalonde said she has no doubt next year’s edition of the Windsor Lancer women’s basketball team will get the job done when they go for their sixth consecutive CIS national title.
“A lot of people doubted us this year, so I suppose they’ll doubt the players on next year’s team as well,” LaLonde added. “[Vallee] is a real tough coach to play for because she pushes us to our limits. She got us all playing our best at the peak moments in our career. She’s just an awesome coach, I couldn’t have asked for more. She cares for all of us, including our support staff because she cares for us as people first, which makes for an awesome team and I am just so grateful to be a part of it.”
Adding notably to Windsor’s championship success was tournament all-star Cheyanne Roger, the 2014 OUA Rookie of the year, who dominated the paint at both ends of the court when needed. Against McGill, Roger scored 10 points and her perennial partner in the paint, Emily Prevost scored 12 points. The Martlets, who valiantly settled for the silver medal, were led by Mariam Sylla and Alex Kiss-Rusk who both scored 10 points while Sylla and tournament all-star Gabriela Hebert led McGill in rebounding.
Although not all of the Lancers figured significantly in the scoring of the final game Williams, LaRocque and LaLonde were careful to heap praise upon all of their teammates. Returning standouts include Andrea Kiss, Caitlyn Longmuir and Carly Steer, who helped the starters get through to the OUA Final 4 and CIS Final 8 tournament.
“Like the teams of my past four years, this year, once again, we dealt with losing some of our most experience players – our seasoned vets,” said Williams. “Yet this team had a lot of grit and a desire to win. We all beat the odds, we were all doubted, but the young girls stepped into their roles and it was awesome.”
In reflecting on her illustrious Lancers career, Williams said her leadership role meant more to her than simply passing the torch on to her teammates on a winning note.
“I am very grateful to have played on this year’s team,” said Williams “Each year we are a different team, we are part of a whole community … so we we’re playing for everybody.”