There are two different teams that suit up for the McMaster Marauders women’s basketball squad.
There is the team that looks confident, takes the ball and looks to score. That team passes with intent, moving the ball around with an end goal in mind.
Then, there is the alternative, or the team that showed up on Feb. 1 at Lakehead.
McMaster scored 46 points against the Thunderwolves – their second lowest total of the year. Their worst offensive output was 44 points, against the No.1 ranked team in the country, Windsor. Lakehead ranks 29th of 45 teams for defensive rating, a sabermetric statistic of how many points a team will allow on a defensive possession. In that same category, Windsor ranks second behind McGill, who has played fewer games in a weaker conference.
In the loss, players not named Hailey Milligan or Danielle Boiago combined to score 15 points on 5-32 shooting. The following night, McMaster bounced back and grabbed a crucial win to distance themselves from Lakehead. Outside of Milligan and Boiago, the team scored 38 points.
Those statistics and their correlations are nothing new: McMaster is more likely to win when the entire team is contributing offensively. In wins, McMaster’s non-Milligan/Boiago players average 33.6 points per game. Comparatively, they average 24.7 points per game in losses.
Head coach Theresa Burns has talked about how important a variety of shooters is, and said after the holiday trip that the problems with tertiary scoring seemed to have disappeared. In a way, it has. Isabel Ormond had 14 points against Guelph, Liz Burns put up 13 points in the victory over Lakehead, and Vanessa Bonomo had eight points and seven assists in the home win over Western. The team has capable scorers, but capable and confident are separate beasts.
As the team stepped off the bus at Pearson International Airport, the veteran players – Burns, Bonomo and Milligan – commented that it was their last flight together. The lingering end of their McMaster basketball career should be enough to propel this team with some momentum in playoffs, but it will not be an easy road.
McMaster has two of the three next games at home, with Windsor being the lone road game. Beating Windsor would be a shocker, given the 84-44 throttling in early January from the Lancers. But the home games against Laurier and Waterloo are winnable, and Mac is 5-2 at home.
The CIS Final 8 tournament is not out of the question, either. With Windsor hosting, the OUA Bronze medal winner would earn a berth, should the Lancers make OUA Finals. McMaster needs a good run down the stretch, but it is hard to judge the team. Mac’s mental toughness remains a question mark, and the final three games should finally give a definitive answer.