HAMILTON – It took them a quarter to get rolling, but once they did, they didn’t look back.
Les Geants de Saint-Jean used a 14-2 run to open the second half as their springboard to a big finish, and they punched their ticket to the National Semifinals with an 84-71 win over the Mount Saint Vincent University (MSVU) Mystics in the opening contest at the 2023 CCAA Women’s Basketball National Championship in Hamilton.
Rosalie Mercille was named Player of the Game for Saint-Jean, while Emily Holt was named Player of the Game for the Mystics.
“Everyone is really excited for what we’re doing for the first time in Geants history,” said Mercille post-game. “Everyone was in the game right from the start and through to the finish.”
The Mystics came out of the gates strong, building an early six-point lead on the Geants, who were making their debut on the national stage while the Mystics continued their recent run of representing the ACAA at the National Championships.
In the second quarter, Saint-Jean started to find its rhythm on both ends of the floor. They got timely blocks on the defensive end while their offense started to knock down some open looks as they tried to cut into the lead of the Mystics.
MSVU and Saint-Jean went back-and-forth in the closing minutes of the first half, but the Geants took a two-point lead into the locker room, 36-34.
Sophie-Anne Bouffard was a perfect 5-for-5 from the free throw line in the first half, and led all Saint-Jean scorers with 11 points. Holt led all scorers in the first half with 14 points for the Mystics to go along with four rebounds.
In the second half, Saint-Jean started to take over thanks in large part to the play of Mercille on the offensive end. The Monmouth Hawks commit scored 17 of her team-high 21 points in the second half, and she was a key cog in the 14-2 run for the Geants to open the second half. What was a two-point lead quickly ballooned into a14-point cushion early in the third quarter.
The Mystics did their best to cut into the deficit, but their shots wouldn’t drop. As a team, the Mystics shot just 5-of-23 from three-point range for the game. Saint-Jean kept the Mystics at a comfortable distance and rode the momentum of their second half start to the 13-point win, 84-71.
“It’s just part of our culture to bring a lot of energy,” added Mercille when asked about the 14-2 run to start the second half. “We knew that the job wasn’t done, and we needed to continue pushing to get the win.”
Mercille finished with 21 points and nine rebounds to lead the way for the Geants. Sophie-Anne Bouffard added 19 points, nine rebounds, and nine assists, while Charlotte Gagne added 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting.
Holt led all scorers on the day, finishing with 30 points to go along with six rebounds and three assists. Alisha McNeil chipped in with 11 points for the Mystics.
With the victory, the Geants advance to Thursday’s semifinals where they await the winner of Game Two between the Humber Hawks and the Augustana Vikings.
The Mystics will take on the loser of Game Two in the first of two Bronze Medal Quarterfinals on Thursday.
– T. Bennett