By John DeCoste
In the end, all the injuries and player losses they had to deal with this season were just too much for the Acadia women’s basketball team to overcome.
The Axewomen saw their season end with a 66-60 loss to UNB in the quarterfinals of the AUBC championship tournament March 8 in Fredericton.
Acadia had entered the tournament as the third seed following a 14-6 regular season. UNB, on the other hand, won just two of 20 regular season games and only qualified for the playoffs because they were hosting.
However, the regular season records of the two teams belied the fact that, as Axewomen head coach Bev Greenlaw suggested, UNB was “probably better than we are right now.”
There was a time this season when Acadia might have been favoured to at least make it to the AUBC final, and with a bit of luck, repeat as AUBC champions.
That, however, was before a family medical issue forced Emily Nkosi to leave school at Christmas and a knee injury ended senior point guard Lindsay Harris’s season - and Acadia career - in the second-to-last regular season game.
The loss of Harris left Acadia, which already had a limited roster, with only a handful of players, some of whom were already playing hurt and all of whom were worn down even further by having to play significantly more minutes.
“Everything I feared might happen ended up happening,” Greenlaw said following the loss. “The effort was certainly there, as it has been all season, but we didn’t play that well.”
The Axewomen made just one of 17 three-pointers, were out-rebounded 45-28 and made only 11 of 20 free throws.
“Those,” Greenlaw acknowledged, “aren’t good numbers.”
Acadia trailed 17-14 after one quarter, but won the second quarter 20-16 to lead 34-33 at halftime. UNB then took the third quarter 18-6 to lead 51-40 after 30 minutes.
The Axewomen “played with some heart down the stretch” to get the lead down to four, Greenlaw said, but “couldn’t ever make that one play we needed to seize the momentum.”
“The bottom line was, with the kids we had, we just weren’t good enough,” Greenlaw said – especially after fourth-year forward Abbey Duinker was called for two quick fouls early on, forcing her to the bench.
“The amazing thing was that we were able to do what we did in the fourth quarter with literally nothing left in the tank.”
To Greenlaw, the Axewomen were able to come back from losing Nkosi, but just couldn’t overcome losing Harris.
“Not only was she our best player, she was also the player whose sheer presence was able to make everyone else on the team better,” he added.
On the other hand, “the positive thing is that this is now day one of our rebuilding process,” he said.
“We need to become a better team, and the players we’ll have returning will all be better from their experience this season.”
Barring any more misfortune, Duinker, Kristy Moore, Rita Sibo, Carlie MacDonald, Aprille Deus, Rachel Savage, Chika Chiekwe and Maya Macatumpag are all eligible to return next season.
In fact, all the turmoil of the season took away from the fact that several Axewomen players improved greatly this season, including Sibo, who had a solid second half in which she played with increased confidence almost every start.
The second-year Quebec native had a team-high 22 points and 10 rebounds against UNB, to go along with 19 points from Moore and 11 from Duinker.
Greenlaw has also begun to do something about the thin roster numbers this season, having already secured commitments from six players for next season and beyond.