The Lakehead Thunderwolves haven’t earned a playoff berth yet. But they took a huge step closer Friday night.
With her mother in the crowd from snowed-in Atlanta, Jylisa Williams scored yet another double-double, dropping 15 points and grabbing an equal number of rebounds to lead the Wolves women to an impressive 52-46 home-court win over the No. 12 McMaster Marauders.
“It was a great win, I would say,” Williams said. “It may have been sloppy, but a win is a win. But it was a team win.”
The victory, which saw the Wolves stretch a three-point lead after one to 17 courtesy of a 14-0 run to start the second, was never going to be that easy.
The Marauders, led by Danielle Boiago’s 16, kept whittling away at the LU lead, and with less than four minutes to play they’d cut their deficit to just three.
“We knew we had to hold it together to win the game,” Williams said. “They’re a good team, but we knew they would come back after we had our big run. We basically had to get our composure together. That’s kind of what won our game.”
Thunder Bay’s own Katie Ulakovic, who finished with seven, said the Wolves can’t afford to take any nights off down the stretch.
The win improved LU’s record to 9-8, good for a fifth-place tie with Brock and left them just a win shy of the Marauders in fourth with a Thunderdome rematch staring the two teams in the face Saturday night. They're also three games in front of seventh-place Guelph, who has a date Saturday with two-time defending champion Windsor.
Fourth would mean a home-game come playoff time.
“This is a huge win for us. Every game from now on – well, all season for that matter – is a huge deal because it guarantees us more and more into playoffs. Then once we get into playoffs, maybe we’ll get a home playoff game,” Ulakovic said.
It’s also a big win for a team that’s faded down the stretch in recent seasons, losing out last season on a playoff berth to Guelph, dropping seven of its last eight games in the process.
“Right now we’re learning to work together as a team. We don’t have one key player who just scores every night. We distribute the ball every night. Sometimes it’s one player. For instance, like (Kelsey Bardsley), she’s had a lot of big games. Ayse (Kalkan’s) had a lot of big games. (Jylisa’s) had some huge games. But we’re all equal,” Ulakovic said.
Try as the Marauders might, they just couldn’t close the gap. After Hailey Milligan – who matched Williams’s effort with 15 points and 15 boards of her own – drove for two to pull McMaster within five midway through the fourth, Jessica de Haan answered with a basket.
It was Essa Jacobsen who answered after Boiago missed a three to tie it. Then, showcasing an improved defence that smothered McMaster most of the first half, limiting them to just two field goals in the opening quarter, the Wolves stripped the ball, it ultimately landing in Williams’s hands. She made the hoop, pushed the lead back to eight and the Marauders ran out of time.
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