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Tianna Sullivan (15) posted an incredible 32-point performance against the Niagara Knights.

For both the George Brown Huskies and the Niagara Knights, Friday was a tale of two halves. Participating in the Ontario Colleges Athletic Association (OCAA) Championship, a tremendous first half from George Brown was undone by their opponents in the second, as Niagara took the W, 75-72.

The Huskies couldn't have asked for a better start on the big stage, kicking off their quarter-final match with a dominant offensive performance. GBC's relentless press has been the bane of opposing teams' existence this season, and once again it forced turnover after turnover as Niagara looked stressed and listless.

Led by a 10-point effort from Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association All-Canadian and OCAA League Scoring Champion Tianna Sullivan, George Brown jumped out to a 30-13 lead after the first quarter.

The second frame proved to be a move even affair, but the Huskies still carried a 41-26 advantage into halftime. While Niagara's 9-40 field goal shooting was bound to improve, GBC seemed well on its way to clinching a semi-final berth.

"In the first half, we brought a lot of energy, we were rebounding the ball," said Sullivan. "We just worked very well as a unit, we had that mindset of we wanted to come and win.

"But in the second half we didn't do too well. We relaxed."

George Brown's largest lead, a 21-point gap to make the score 47-26, came nearly three minutes into the third quarter. It was a high water mark which would evaporate all too quickly.

With 11 points from guard-forward Mary Ingribelli leading the charge, the Knights posted a 23-12 third quarter, narrowing GBC's lead to 53-49. That momentum continued into the match's final frame, as Niagara tied the game 57-57 just over three minutes in, and eventually held a six point edge with 4:12 minutes left on the clock.

The Huskies' ability to punch back was hampered by foul trouble. Already missing forward Kiyann Grimaldo due to injury, George Brown crucially lost Aprille Deus three minutes into the fourth quarter after she fouled out, followed by Sherral Wilson minutes later.

George Brown's rhythm and offensive flow was clearly impacted, perhaps nowhere moreso than on the glass. After a neck and neck rebounding game through most of the match, the Knights held a 17-8 advantage in the fourth.

Despite all that, the Huskies fought against the winds of momentum, even retaking the lead 72-70 off a Sullivan jump shot with 46 seconds remaining. Niagara's masterclass in perseverance wasn't done yet, however. Three free throws made by Courtney Kilyk plus a jump shot from Brooke Cesar gave the Knights a 75-72 lead they would hold up to the final buzzer, surviving two George Brown opportunities to tie things up in the game's dying seconds.

"I give them a lot of credit," said Sullivan, who played all 40 minutes, posting 32 points along the way. "Niagara's a great team; it's hard to come back from (the start they had) and keep pushing, keep wanting to win.

"We just relaxed and weren't playing our game. We made some mistakes and it's something we need to get better at. It's all part of the learning process for us."

One post-game look at the Huskies athletes said it all: This loss hurt. In what has been an incredible turnaround season for the program, George Brown wasn't simply happy to be at the OCAA Championship. They came to Humber College to win.

For a lineup with seven rookies on the roster, and a program just starting its rise, their lack of seasoning on the big stage may have come into play against a wily Knights squad.

"I think the moment just caught up with us," said Huskies head coach Warren Williams. "I thought Niagara showed their experience, and they really played through tough times.

"I think a lot of the opponents we've played this year have been, 'Oh, George Brown is pressing us, we're not sure if we can persevere through this.' But Niagara showed an ability to persevere, and we didn't quite show that ability today. I do think it comes down to experience in this tournament."

The sting of this quarter-final defeat doesn't take away from the year that's been. While it would have been quite the story to go from missing the playoffs last season to advancing to the OCAA Championship semi-finals this year, the path more traveled is to lay a foundation and build. As the saying goes, Rome wasn't built in a day.

What these George Brown Huskies went through against Niagara was the School of Hard Knocks. Now comes the test of character which is the consolation bracket, beginning with a semi-final match against the Durham Lords.

"We still have an opportunity to keep building a foundation for this program going forward," Williams said. "I think tomorrow and Sunday are important for us to keep establishing who we are.

"If we do win tomorrow and Sunday, that would be 20 wins (on the season), and that would be quite an achievement for our team. I think we keep pushing this weekend and then after the semester, we evaluate where we are, what are some things that we need to get better at, what are some things that we really need to focus on for us to move even further."

George Brown has an opportunity to end their season with a couple more notches in the win column. And it's with a chin-up attitude that these Huskies head into Saturday.

"We still have games, two games left, so we can't put our heads down," Sullivan stated firmly. "We still got to go out and win.

"We can still be top-five in the province. That's something we're aiming for."


Follow @GBC_Huskies on Twitter beginning at 3 p.m. tomorrow, as your Huskies take on the Durham Lords in the OCAA Championship consolation semi-final.