By CLAUDE SCILLEY
Dave Wilson had lots of time to consider what he might do as Friday night’s basketball game went into its final few minutes.
“It felt like about three weeks,” he said.
In fact, the Queen’s Golden Gaels had gone only six and a half minutes without scoring a point to start the fourth quarter of their Ontario University Athletics women’s basketball game with the Western Mustangs.
“You don’t know how painful it is,” the Gaels coach mused.
Even though Mustangs capitalized by taking the lead in the ball game for the first time, one thing Wilson didn’t think about doing was call a timeout. It’s the customary move by a coach at such critical points, but Wilson resisted, and before long his players rewarded his faith in them by recapturing the lead—and holding it for the rest of the game, as they left the Athletics and Recreation Centre with a 69-64 victory.
The Queen’s win snapped a nine-game winning streak by West division-leading Western, and pushed the Gaels, 12-3, two points ahead of idle Ryerson into sole possession of first place in the East division.
After the game, Wilson explained that there are statistics that support the theory that calling time out, collecting one’s thoughts and running a set play might not be the solution to every team’s ills.
“I’m not saying that’s right or wrong,” he said, but rather than the circumstance, he relies more on how his players are behaving to determine whether calling time out might be beneficial.
“To me it’s more about how we look, whether we’re disorganized, or whether we look defeated or whether we look scared,” he said. “If we look like we’re in control, then I’m happy to let them go rather than let (the other coach) set up his defence against us.”
It’s not the first time this year Wilson has flown in the face of conventional wisdom.
“Our kids believe,” he said. “I asked them that once, after the game … against York, we were down 14 right off the start of the game, and I asked them, ‘Did you ever have a sense that we were going to lose that game?’ They said, no, absolutely not. They have a belief in what they’re capable of doing.
“We do have an inner confidence … if we just do the things we know how to do. (That’s why) I didn’t call time out. I just let it go.”
In fact, in a game of such extreme ebbs and flows as you’ll ever see on a basketball court, Wilson said the stretch where Western took the lead was actually the best part of the game, for what followed.
“There was no sense of panic,” he said. “The kids just said, ‘OK what do we want to execute; what do we want to run?’ and came right down and executed what we wanted to do and took the lead again.
“It’s one thing to see a little disappointment in how we gave up the big lead, but it’s a whole other thing when you’re actually behind, how it affects the psyche, and that part I was very pleased with. We just plowed through, made it happen, took the lead again and didn’t give it up.
“That’s the big thing that I take out of this game. Our maturity as a team has grown over the years. (Emily Hazlett) at the point guard spot, her game has matured so much, where she doesn’t lose control of that. She doesn’t panic about anything.”
Queen’s, shooting at a success rate of 60 per cent in the first quarter, raced to an early 21-3 lead and the Gaels led Western 26-9 at the end of the period. Western found its shooting eye in the second quarter, however, and cut the lead to 39-29 at halftime.
In a raucous third quarter, Western got within six points right off the bat, Queen’s twice took its lead back to 14 points, then the Mustangs, with four three-point baskets in the span of five possessions, got the deficit to one point, before the Gaels went on another spurt to stretch the lead to nine points, 58-49, going into the final quarter.
Then came Western’s charge, 12 straight points, the first eight of them from Maddy Horst, who drained a couple of threes, as the visitors took a 61-58 lead with about four minutes to play.
That’s when Abby Dixon went to work for Queen’s, scoring her team’s next seven points, including a basket with 2:13 left that restored the Gaels’ lead at 63-61. With the Gaels leading by four points and 42.8 seconds on the clock, Western ran a play but Alex Van Heeswyk missed a layup. Queen’s brought the ball down the floor, missed a shot, but Robyn Pearson twice grabbed a rebound and as she was going up for a third, she was fouled. Pearson made both free throws with 8.3 seconds left to clinch the victory.
“It’s hard to play when you get a big lead up front,” Wilson said. “It’s really difficult to keep that going. You’d love to say, 'We’ve just got to keep our focus,' but there’s a lot of other little things that go on in a game that make that more difficult than describing it … little things that happen defensively, little breakdowns and how it affects your demeanor.
“(Western) got hot, they shot extremely well in the second quarter so that took away our running game, and that’s where we did all of our scoring in the first quarter. Until you get back to getting stops, which we did a little bit in the third quarter, it was hard for us to get our game going.”
Dixon finished the game with a season-best 17 points for Queen’s, while Pearson scored 14 points and pulled down a game-best 10 rebounds. Marianne Alarie added 10 points off the bench.
Mackenzie Puklicz, with 17 points, and Horst and Caroline Wolynski, with 16 points apiece, were the top scorers for Western.
The Gaels resume play Saturday afternoon, when they meet the five-time defending national champion Windsor Lancers at the Enercare Centre in Toronto, in a game that is part of the ancillary activities surrounding the NBA all-star game.