Tonight, Thursday Feb. 28, is the semifinal playoff game for the McMaster women’s basketball team and the rematch of the 2018 Ontario University Athletics Critelli Cup finals. Facing the Carleton University Ravens in Burridge Gym will be a nostalgic match, as the Ravens walked away with the Cup last year on the Marauders’ home court. Luckily for Mac, this year they are going to the semifinals as the third best team in the nation while the Ravens’ are seventh.
Ending the regular season 21-3, the Marauders earned their right to a first-round bye, and faced the Brock University Badgers in the OUA quarter-finals. Although the Marauders headed into the game with as much success as they did, the game was not as easy as they would have liked. After struggling for the first half, it was in the third quarter that the Marauders were able to break away and win the match 81-70.
Sarah Gates, who was chosen for the 2018 OUA All-Rookie Team after a strong rookie campaign, scored a whopping 28 points, shooting nine of 16 from the field and five of 10 from three-point range. Her performance was a testament to her overall season, even securing a spot on the OUA All-Star Second Team.
Senior Hilary Hanaka helped out offensively as always, scoring 12 points. Both Hanaka and Linnaea Harper, who sat out of the quarter-final game due to injury, were recognized as First-Team All-Stars.
For the Marauders, staying consistent and not letting the memories of the last Carleton-McMaster matchup get in their heads unless to fuel them, will be the key for the Marauders to return to the Critelli Cup finals once again.
By: Adriana Skaljin
Being in athletics, especially at a university level, can add pressure to the lives of athletes. Whether it comes from personal expectations, or those of coaches and fans, pressure can affect both their physical and mental states.
Matt Quiring, who has been a forward for the McMaster men’s basketball team for four years, began playing due to his family’s love for the sport.
“I started playing when I was in the third grade, but started playing competitively in Grade five,” said Quiring. “I’m glad that my parents forced me to play, considering that I was shy. It got me to where I am today.”
Through basketball, Quiring met many important coaches and players who provided him with opportunities he would not have experienced otherwise.
“Basketball also taught me hard work ethic, [which] I wouldn’t have learned anywhere else,” explained Quiring. “This skill can be translated later on in life.”
Sefa Otchere, first-year starting guard, also acknowledged the ways in which basketball has positively impacted his life.
“[The sport] is still impacting my life,” Otchere said. “Playing sports made me get out of my house, and [ultimately] showed me different places [while] making new friends.”
Both players also commented on the pressures that playing at a university level places on them.
“There is a lot of pressure that comes with the sport, both academically and athletically,” said Quiring. “It can get to you a lot of times. The mental and physical struggles can become taxing.”
Quiring and Otchere have implemented motivational strategies to work through their doubts and create a positive mindset when going into their games.
“[The pressure] is something I’ve struggled with,” said Quiring. “Recently, I have increased my confidence and have used pregame techniques given to me by a sports psychologist. There is a whole mental side to preparing.”
Otchere has a similar approach to handling pressure, starting with not putting expectations on himself.
“Basketball should be used to relieve stress and pressure, rather than provide that. I try and remind myself that before games,” said Otchere. “I make sure to remember that I need to go out and have fun.”
A healthy mindset is also important when coming back from a loss or a tough game. Recently, the Marauders suffered back-to-back tough losses against Brock University and Western University on Jan. 30 and Feb. 2.
“It’s always hard coming back from a loss because you have to watch the film and look at your mistakes. Then you have to fix them before the next game,” said Otchere.
— McMaster Basketball (@mcmastermbb) January 19, 2019
“You need time to mourn the loss, in a sense,” added Quiring. “After that, you need to put it behind you and realize where you messed up, and then learn and move on.”
Otchere also had to prepare for his comeback after his injury earlier in the season.
“I felt like I had to get my [groove], and confidence back,” said Ochere. “I also had to do extra practices to physically get back into the game as well.
Going into the end of the regular season, the players have applied these techniques as a means for achieving their goals.
“Besides winning, we want to make it to the final four and get to nationals,” said Quiring. “[Coach] Patrick Tatham preaches consistency [and] sets up team and individual workouts to develop skills needed to achieve our goals.”
“We need to make it known that we are one of the best teams,” said Ochere. “[All of] my focus is towards playing right and making playoffs.”
It is evident that both mental and physical health are important towards the well-being of athletes. The McMaster men’s basketball team’s perseverance and passion for the game will definitely be reflected in the upcoming games and in their journey towards nationals.
By: Graham West
Hard work, toughness and focus are the key elements that have led to Hilary Hanaka’s outstanding success at the university level. After recently achieving the milestone of 1000 career points, Hanaka is looking forward to a season filled with promise.
Hitting 1000 career points is a huge career landmark and it meant a lot to Hanaka, although she stressed the importance the team has had in contributing to her being able to achieve it.
“It’s a pretty big milestone to hit and it means a lot to hit that point,” Hanaka said. “But, of course it’s a team sport overall, so I think I’m more excited to figure out where our team will end up this season… it's obviously nice to hit that point, but I obviously wouldn’t have gotten to this point without the help of my teammates and my coach.”
It has not always been easy on the path to greatness for Hanaka as there have been challenges with balancing academics and being a varsity athlete.
“There are positives and negatives. Coming into first year, that was when the big adjustment hit,” Hanaka said. “Obviously, it’s a much bigger time commitment being on a varsity team and having classes every single day, practices every day and you’re away on weekends and just making sure you find the right balance to do everything.”
“With that being said, you’re surrounded by an incredible group of girls, coaching staffs,” Hanaka added. “We have so much support through the athletic department, so whenever things were going downhill, you always had someone to pick you back up.”
Hanaka’s experience with the difficulties athletes can face and her expertise on the court are some of the things that make her a great leader. Being there for her teammates on and off the court is instrumental to the success of the team and something that is incredibly important to her as well.
“Off the court is just as important as on the court when it comes to varsity sports,” Hanaka said.
“Being a veteran player, I’ve been around for five years so I’ve been through most of the things that bring you down and that go on. So just being able to be there for the girls is something that I really strive to do.”
“Just knowing that I’ve been in the position of a first-year, second-year, third-year and even a fourth-year player and things aren't always fun and games there’s always going to be those lows,” Hanaka added. "Being able to make sure the girls are aware that I’m always there for them, whether it’s something basketball-related, life-related, school-related, whatever it might be, that just because I’m a leader on the court, doesn’t mean I can’t be the leader off the court. ”
Whenever Hanaka’s career as a player ends, it will most certainly not be the end to her basketball career. When you have a particularly knowledgeable player who is a natural leader, coaching is always on the horizon. It is something Hanaka is interested in, and given her success as a player, seems very possible.
“I would love to be a coach. Growing up I’ve always been surrounded by basketball and it’s been a huge part of my life,” Hanaka said. “Being a player has been incredible, but I think I’m kinda ready to hang up the shoes and move forward. Hopefully down the road, coaching is something that I’ll be put into.”
Always one of the first people in the gym, Hanaka has had an outstanding career so far in the maroon and grey and looks to only improve. The team is one to watch as they continue to play their way to a return to nationals, with their eyes clearly set on taking home gold.