By: Andrew Sarkis
The McMaster women’s basketball team has not looked back since their Oct. 26 opening-night victory, compiling an overall record of 6-2 since then. The Marauders are currently riding a four-game winning streak and have outscored their opponents by an average of 22 points over that span.
The team’s most recent victory came on the road on Nov. 24, which turned out to be an up-and-down matchup against the Brock Badgers. The game was not an easy one for Mac. They squandered a first quarter 21-10 advantage, allowing the Badgers to tie the game up at the half.
Coming down to the latter stages of the fourth quarter, the Badgers attempted to claw their way back into the game by putting down a few late-game shots. Brock’s comeback attempt ended up being unsuccessful as the Marauders prevailed with a 70-61 win.
Head coach Theresa Burns credits the team’s unselfishness and overall comfort level as some of the reasons for their recent success.
“I think we’ve had a lot of nights where we shot the ball well,” Burns said. “I think we are spacing the floor and sharing the ball well. Some of our younger players are really starting to gain confidence and step up their game and look more comfortable. We’re getting contributions from our whole lineup, which is great.”
Additionally, Burns has credited one of the team’s star players, Hilary Hanaka, as a focal point for their recent success.
“Every game we get different contributions from different people,” said Burns. “I think Hilary Hanaka has certainly been a tremendous leader for us, especially since Linnaea Harper got injured. She has an incredibly high basketball IQ. As well as being able to generate offence for herself, she creates offence for other people. She defends for us. She just brings so much leadership to our team. We depend on her for a lot. She’s really turned into a good leader for our group.”
Hanaka’s impressive play has not only been recognized by her coach and teammates, but by the league as well. She was recently honoured with the Ontario University Athletics Athlete of the Week award. Hanaka averaged 30 points over the course of the Marauders’ back-to-back wins against Laurentian and Nipissing. The fourth-year guard recognized the honour as a great individual achievement.
“Individually, it’s obviously a great honour,” Hanaka said. “It’s always a been something that I’ve kind of strived for, to be able to be a leader on the team. This year, we’ve lost a couple of starters and our significant players. Stepping into the captain role this year, I had some big shoes to fill so it’s nice to have that confidence behind me now.”
Hanaka was also quick to credit her teammates as a reason for her individual accomplishment, mentioning their help as a reason for her success.
“I think just for myself and my personal game, that extra step and level of confidence is something that came with that award, knowing that other people are believing in me,” said Hanaka. “So putting in that extra effort is going to get me great places and help my team as well. But I wouldn’t have been able to receive the award without the help of my teammates. They are always willing to push me to the next level and they are half the reason that I’m able to score all those points.”
Sitting atop the Western division in a three-way tie with Lakehead and Windsor, the Marauders are at a good standing in the league. Looking to continue their success, Mac is up for a clash against the league-best Carleton Ravens. The Ravens are currently seated in first in the Eastern division with a record of 8-0. Carleton has dominated their competition, winning the majority of their games by a large margin in commanding fashion.
While the Marauders will be focusing on preparations for the undefeated Carleton Ravens, they will do so by fine-tuning details. Entering the next part of their season, the Marauders will not look to change their approach drastically.
“We want to play at fast pace, and that won’t change no matter who we’re playing,” said Burns. “For us, some of our young group will need better attention to detail. There are little details in our game that just aren’t there completely yet. We can get away with that sometimes, maybe against certain teams, but you can’t get away with that against teams like Carleton.”
Hanaka echoed her coach’s statements, noting that extra time will help the team be able to best prepare for the Ravens.
“We have pretty well the same approach all the time,” Hanaka said, “We’ll do some scouting of the other team and mainly focus on our own team stuff. Coming into this weekend, we’ll probably have an extra couple of days to go over the Carleton stuff, knowing that they’re obviously a very talented team.”
While they will focus their gameplay to accommodate the specific advantages the Ravens boast as a team, the Marauders also know they can rely on their own skill set that has not let them down this season. When something is working, it does not need to be altered.
“We’ll just go in like every other game and know that we’re prepared, and that when we play our game we can put up a good fight against any team that we’re up against,” Hanaka added.
Time will tell how the Marauders will fare against the Ravens, as they are set to square off in a heavyweight match on Dec. 1. This match kicks off a pivotal part in the basketball season and this matchup is one of many important contests the Marauders will have to win on the road to the playoffs.