The Humber Hawks women’s basketball team fell short against the Mohawk Mountaineers on Feb. 7, the last home game for head coach Ajay Sharma before his retirement and the final home stand for the Hawks before the playoffs.
The Mountaineers entered the gym with one goal: to get the season sweep for the first time since the 1989–90 season.
They outscored the Hawks 70-63 and, along the way, secured a home playoff game.
Before the tip-off, the Hawks honoured Sharma with a ceremony. They also thanked their seniors, Katherine Khorovets, Teija Wareham and Sarah Baptie.
Shooting guard Khorovets said there were many mixed emotions while playing the game.
“It was definitely bittersweet. I’m really glad that I got to play this game at Humber,” she said. “My family wasn’t able to be here today, but everyone here is my family.
“While I was posing for the picture with the coaches, Ajay was like, ‘You have a new family here.’ They were so supportive and so welcoming,” she said. “I wouldn’t want to play my last year anywhere else.”
Khorovets said the team wanted to win this game, but there were still a lot of positives they could still take moving on to crossovers and playoffs.
“We definitely knew this was going to be a pretty hard team to beat,” she said. “The last time we played them, it was pretty close.
“We ended up losing, but we knew we could beat them, and compete with them,” Khorovets said.
“We obviously really wanted to win for Ajay,” she said. “We wanted to finish out on a win for him, but unfortunately, it didn’t go that way.”
Hawks guard Maezell Del Mundo said the team knew it wouldn’t be an easy game and wanted to build each other up regardless.
“It’s finally come the day when coach retires, and it’s definitely hard on us and also everyone in the Humber community to see,” she said. “But I know we’re in good hands coming forward with the coaching staff, and it’s just that it’s hard to play, but we’ve pushed through.”
Del Mundo said they knew what the stakes in this game were and how tough Mohawk would be, but it didn’t stop them from playing their style.
“We knew coming in that Mohawk was a good team. We had to come with a positive mindset and keep each other accountable, staying positive no matter what,” she said.
“It takes accountability, honestly. Sometimes you’ll be up, you’ll be down; there’s a lot of emotions going on, but as long as you’re together as a team, staying together, and being positive, that’s all that matters,” she said.
The Hawks shot 27.1 per cent — while the Mountaineers shot 41.4 per cent — and surrendered 21 points off turnovers.
The Hawks’ defence was tightened in the fourth quarter, cutting the lead to four with 1:03 remaining. But Mountaineers’ Maddie Anderson knocked down a clutch three to extend the lead by seven.
Aleena Domingo, Hawks assistant coach, said the team executed its game plan well and locked in defensively.
“There were a couple of times where we executed the plan out of a timeout. Unfortunately, the ball didn’t go, but we did better this time, defensively, and we did pretty well in the zone,” she said.
Mohawk’s Maddie Anderson led the way with her first career double-double, scoring 17 points and securing 13 rebounds.
Domingo said although it wasn’t the outcome she wanted, playoffs begin next week, and they need to focus and see what’s next.
“It’s gonna take continued hard work, high competition, and preparation,” she said.
Khorovets said the team has much to learn from this game, and minor adjustments make a huge difference down the stretch.
“We need to do everything at a good pace, cutting, passing, zipping passes. Sometimes, we pass soft, resulting in a turnover or no advantage for the offence. They change the game, especially playoff time,” she said.
The team finished fifth in the West Division of the OCAA and will play the Loyalist Lancers in the playoffs.