Photos by Kyle West

Things have been going very well for the McMaster women’s basketball team and they have no plans to slow down. Currently in first place in the Ontario University Athletics West with a 12-2 record, and the worst arguably behind them, another trip to the University Sports national finals looks on the horizon. But this time, senior guard Hilary Hanaka and the Marauders aim to leave with a medal.

“Once you get that taste on court playing against the best teams in Canada, it only makes you hungrier for more,” said Hanaka. “You know that you're there and you can compete, but I think just being on that playing field for the first time there was a lot of nerves going into it. I think we didn't play quite to our full potential.”

Although the Marauders faced teams like the McGill University Martlets, who they have seen before in exhibition play, the games against teams like the University of Calgary Dinos, who play a much grittier style than Hanaka and the Marauders were used to, caught them off guard. But Hanaka believes that having been there before, in addition to having such a tough OUA season this year and playing against highly skilled Ontario teams, will help the Mac women get to that top level to compete at Nationals.

“Knowing that we got there is a huge step in our team success,” Hanaka said. “Of course, our ultimate goal was getting to Nationals and getting a medal would have been a bonus, but I think for a young team with lots of changes, that was a huge stepping stone for us. So right now we are just making sure we have an opportunity to get back there to prove that we deserve to be there and that we can do better than we did last year.”

So far ensuring that OUA playoff spot has been going well for the Marauders. Even with the loss of key veterans like Lexie Spadafora, Jelena Mamic and Adrienne Peters, Mac does not appear to have missed a beat. One of the reasons is the addition of Christina Buttenham, a Hamilton native and transfer from the University of Iowa, where she played from 2014 to 2017.

“It's always tough to lose senior players. With their experience on and off the court, it’s obviously a huge loss for us,” said Hanaka. “But I think gaining players like Christina, who's been in high-level basketball for years, is something that is huge. She stepped right in and already fills a leadership role on the team.”

Not only does Buttenham have National Collegiate Athletic Association experience, but she also played for the Canadian Junior National team in 2014, and was named an Academic All-Big Ten selection as a junior and as a sophomore while at Iowa.

Buttenham has already been such a great addition for the team helping defensively, averaging 5.4 rebounds a game and having the fourth highest points per game average on the team, with 9.9. The help has been able to give Hanaka the opportunity to have big games like she did this past weekend against the University of Guelph Gryphons.

With a game-high of 28 points, shooting an astounding 62.5 per cent from the field and 72.7 per cent from the three-point line, Hanaka led the team to defeat the Gryphons 109-80 on the road.

🏀 FINAL: Hilary Hanaka drops 28 on the road, as @MacWbball blows past the Gryphons 109-80 to improve to 11-2 on the season.@mcmasteru returns home to Burridge Gym tomorrow! #GoMacGo pic.twitter.com/pEXrId3YnT

— McMaster Marauders (@McMasterSports) January 12, 2019

“Getting back into things after the holiday break is never easy, so just going back into these last two games I've been on myself to make sure I've been coming out with that fire,” said Hanaka. “Of course, once you start hitting those first couples of shots and my teammates are cheering for me on the bench and making great passes, it just makes it so much fun to play with them and to do well.”

Guelph was one of two wins this past weekend, the second came against the Wilfrid Laurier University Golden Hawks, who they defeated 59-43 to earn their sixth straight win. Having already played their most personal game this season against the reigning OUA champs the Carleton University Ravens, defeating them 64-52 in November, the worst is over and focusing on staying on top is the Marauders’ top priority.

“Just knowing that our end goal is to get that national championship helps us take every game as it comes and to not overthink them,” said Hanaka. “Another focus has been trying to remembering to take no game for granted, because there has been a lot of upsets in the OUA this year and we don't want one of those to be us.”

With the Marauders’ next two games coming against the Lakehead University Thunderwolves this weekend, they will be making sure they go into every practice seriously so that they are focused come game time, regardless of who is wearing the opposite jersey. This is the mindset the Marauders plan to have until the last buzzer goes off for the season.

 

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Photos by Kyle West

By: Coby Zucker

Looking at the McMaster men’s basketball roster, the word “young” comes to mind, as nine of the 16 players on this year’s squad are rookies. With the addition of third-years Damiann Prehay and Yaw Antwi-Boasiako, and the return of Connor Gilmore, only four current players were on the roster last year.

Despite solid contributions from core veterans Matt Quiring and David McCulloch, this drastically different roster makes it is easy to see how top contenders might overlook the team. Even still, despite the youthful lineup, the Marauders are not interested in taking the path of least resistance and slapping the “growth” and “rebuilding” tags on the season.

🏀 FINAL: McCulloch's 23 points leads the way, as @MacMensBball pulls away in the fourth quarter to record the 97-80 win over Guelph!

Mac is 2-0 in the New Year, and improves to 6-7 in conference play. #GoMacGo pic.twitter.com/LKmkJ3UgAO

— McMaster Marauders (@McMasterSports) January 12, 2019

“Yeah, I know that there’s a lot of first-years,” said junior forward, Kwasi Adu-Poku. “But at the same time, I’m feeling like this is a really good chance for us to do something big. We wouldn’t really see it as a growth year because [head coach Patrick Tatham] brought in a lot of people who are ready to work, ready to go hard, already have a good idea of how to play and everything.”

Coach Tatham’s confidence in his rookies certainly shows. Freshman guards Tristan Lindo, Sefa Otchere and Jordan Henry are averaging 26.1, 20.3 and 25.6 minutes per game respectively, accounting for 28.2 points per game together.

The confidence is paying off, and the rookies are looking to keep up the trust and continue to earn the right to lengthy minutes in their first season of university-level play.

“[Coach Tatham] expects me to be more aggressive, play with confidence, be solid defensively and offensively, and just play with a lot of heart and effort,” said Otchere.

For Otchere, despite his solid numbers in the first half of the season, the adjustment to university ball has taken time.

“You want to do a lot of things because you’re not used to this level yet,” Otchere added. “But just trying to more composed, more relaxed, just understanding you don’t need to rush, everything will just come to me on the court.”

The amount of inexperience within the Marauder’s system has also catapulted the few returning players into leadership positions. Adu-Poku, only in his third year, is already finding himself in the veteran role.

“It’s a bit weird to process at times,” said Adu-Poku, “because I still feel like I’m pretty young myself. When I come into practice and see a lot of first-year guys kind of eager to learn, I realize I could at least give them a bit of mentorship in that respect. So I’m realizing that I’m more of a leader than I think I am.”

https://www.instagram.com/p/BpUla7-hwWd/

Adu-Poku was also quick to stress that leadership spots are not just doled out to the players who have been in the system the longest.

“I think with [coach Tatham’s] culture right now… I think he’s just really trying to show that anyone can be a leader in the sense that, if you’re willing to step up and fit the idea of what he wants to get done and just do what you do best, he’ll use you as someone that people could get advice from,” Adu-Poku explained.

In all, there is a pervasive sense that this Marauders squad, containing the few core veterans supported by a cast of motivated rookies, are still more than capable of putting together a strong campaign.

While the dominant Carleton University and Ryerson University teams might still be out of reach for the time being, the Marauders continue to gain university-level experience and build chemistry. Only getting better, the Mac men will look to continue to prove they are capable of knocking down teams previously thought to be well beyond striking distance as the season progresses.

 

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Photos by Kyle West

The women’s basketball team is off to a red-hot start this season. Currently ranked fifth in the country, the Marauders have been spreading the ball effectively all season, averaging an Ontario University Athletics-leading 19.2 assists per game, allowing several players to contribute to the team’s 7-2 record.

Two of the team’s biggest contributors this season are second-year guard Sarah Gates and fifth-year forward Linnaea Harper, who sit first and second respectively in points and three pointers made per game for the Marauders.

“It's been a good start. We have a lot of good moving pieces coming into this season,” said Harper. “We're a very fast team and that really helps with our game…We're really excited this year.”

https://www.instagram.com/p/BqiHNfqBMxk/?hl=en

The stat sheet reinforces this good start. Harper started off the season with a bang with the venerated forward posting a her second double-double in three games, with 26 points on 11 of 19 shooting and 10 rebounds in their win over Brock University. Adding two more double-doubles to her total, Harper finds herself in the top 10 of the province in points per game (14.6), rebounds per game (8.0) and assists (3.8).

Not only leading on the stat sheet, Harper is one of the key veteran leaders on the Marauders this season in her fifth year with the team, which she credits to her experience and having strong teammates supporting her.

“I think I'm a calming presence on the floor,” Harper said. “Being in my fifth year, I'm kind of seen as more of a leader and that's the role that my coach wants me to play. In terms of offensive and defensive communication, and having a strong presence, I think that's that's how I really fit into that. I might no be the top scorer every game, but I'm definitely contributing in other ways and helping out others to contribute as well.”

Gates has been contributing consistently as well, having some hot games in her own right. Notably, Gates caught fire against Nipissing University, shooting six of eight from beyond the arc on her way to 24 points. That game was the first of three straight 24 point games for Gates, who shot 50% from three over that stretch.

Gates spends a lot of time working on her shot, practicing at least three times a week on her own in addition to team practices. Obviously that work has paid off, especially thanks to support from head coach Theresa Burns.

 

“My coach has never told me not to shoot, which I kind of need,” said Gates. “Sometimes I shoot when I probably shouldn't shoot it, but I think that positive encouragement has just led me to becoming more like a confident player on the court, and knowing I can shoot with a defender on me, or from far back or driving.”

This past weekend, the Mac women faced a tough test against the University of Ottawa and Carleton University, two of Canada’s top teams.

“They're very strong teams and have had a lot of success this year already, just like us,” Gates said before the games. “So I think that coming into this December break, we need to really dig in and just try to get a full 40 minute game together, and just keep playing because these teams won't give up.”

Harper and Gates faired well over the weekend, with Harper accounting for 24 points, six rebounds, six assists and three blocks, while Gates added 22 points and 17 rebounds herself. The team managed to leave the nation’s capital with a loss and an impressive win. Harper knows that there will still be many more challenges for the team ahead.

Women's Basketball -- Massive bounce back effort from @macwbball as they win the rematch of the @ouasport Critelli Cup 64-52 over the @curavens! #GoMacGo

— McMaster Athletics (@McMasterSports) November 25, 2018


“As a top-ranked team, you always have a target on your back,” Harper said. “I think just maintaining our poise, and knowing that we can control games is going to be our biggest thing, and hope that will help us out with getting those wins and moving forward.”

It is evident that the basketball team features an incredibly balanced roster, with every player adding to the box score, any one able to catch fire at any time. That is where their success derives from. With their sights set on returning to the national tournament this season, players like Harper and Gates will need to continue to produce to make that dream a reality.

 

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