The Windsor Lancers celebrate their OUA basketball title Saturday at the St. Denis Centre. (Courtesy of Edwin Tam/University of Windsor)
Their OUA championship hats donned, as the Windsor Lancers awaited the presentation of the trophy, they shared a smile, and perhaps, a sigh of relief.
Saturday’s 56-51 victory over the Carleton Ravens at the St. Denis Centre, which gave the two-time defending CIS champion Lancers their fourth OUA women’s basketball crown in five years, certainly was closer than it needed to be.
That, the Lancers figure, could prove to be a good thing as they head toward their biggest games of the season at the CIS championship in Regina.
“Ever since the second half of the season started, we haven’t played against national contenders, so it’s really good that Carleton was tough with us,” said Lancers guard Miah Langlois, who scored 14 points. “We just had to play tougher.
“It all comes down to will and toughness. That’s what we’re going to try to bring to nationals.”
It was a fairly easy playoff ride for the 24-0 Lancers prior to Saturday’s tilt, winning by 28 over Western and by 22 against McMaster.
Saturday, the Lancers were forced to grind out a victory against a gritty group of Ravens who simply refused to go away.
“We had a 15-point lead as the second quarter was coming to an end,” Lancers coach Chantal Vallee said. “We wanted to get it to 20, but instead, it went the other way.
“We’re really happy we won. We clearly did not play well in the second half. Carleton certainly played much better in the second half.
“They beat us, we were just fortunate that we beat them by more in the first half to win the game. That was the story of the game.”
The story of the playoffs is simple, especially when it gets to this stage of the season.
It doesn’t matter how got you the win. All that matters is that you get the win.
“It’s good to get a close one and know we can close out a game before it comes down to it,” said Lancers guard Jocelyn LaRocque, who came off the bench to net 11 points.
They’ll head to Regina as the No. 1-ranked team in the CIS, winners of the last two national titles. And Windsor will also arrive as OUA champions, something they didn’t do last year after being manhandled by Ottawa in the final.
The amazing part is that the Windsor players really don’t understand what it’s like not to play in the CIS tournament.
“Ever since my first year, I’ve went to nationals, so it seems like we’re supposed to do it, no matter what happens during the year,” said Langlois, the CIS tourney MVP the last two years and a participant in the event in each of her four seasons with Windsor.
“It’s just part of life for me.”
Another part of life for these Lancers? Recognizing what it takes to get the job done even when they aren’t at their very best.
“Some of the girls had maybe not their best games tonight, but it’s good that they were tested this way, because that’s what we need going into nationals,” Vallee said.
As to which team will provide their next exam, that’s immaterial.
“We’ve been there as second fiddle,” Vallee said of the CIS tournament. “We’ve been there as not OUA champions. We’ve been there ranked No. 1 and No. 4 and No. 2 and No. 3. Who knows what we’ll be ranked going in, but it doesn’t really matter. It’s just a piece of paper.
“We go out there, see who’s the opponent and then let’s beat them.”
It’s a strategy that’s worked for them the last two years, and the smart money is on a three-peat.
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