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There are some basketball tilts where it's abundantly clear that both squads are leaving everything out on the court. Sunday was one of those games.

Playing in the Ontario Colleges Athletic Association (OCAA) Championship consolation final, George Brown's women's basketball team went toe to toe with the St. Clair Saints, eventually falling 82-75 in overtime.

The game's tone was largely set in the first quarter, a spirited and physical frame to kick things off. While St. Clair edged George Brown on the scoreboard 12-10, the Huskies rebounded extremely well, not to mention their 4-24 (16.7%) field goal shooting was bound to improve as the match went on.

Notably, both George Brown's Tianna Sullivan and St. Clair's Shannon Kennedy had just 2 points in the period, a testament to each side's concerted efforts to lockdown the opposition's most lethal scorer.

"We put two rookies out against her for basically the whole game," Huskies head coach Warren Williams said after the match, having singled Kennedy out the previous day as a tough cover. "I thought Ashley (McDonald) and Merrissa (Moore) were tremendous in covering Shannon, who in my mind, she's an All-Canadian, she's a terrific player, but we did a great job on her."

With Sullivan earning much of St. Clair's focus, McDonald stepped up not only defensively but offensively as well, posting seven of her nine points by the half. Meanwhile, the rebounding momentum Moore had started against Durham continued unabated, with seven rebounds after two quarters and 12 before game's end.

The second and third quarters were almost two sides of the same coin, with George Brown winning the former 21-12, while the Saints took the latter by a 21-15 margin. The intense battle promised in the first quarter had also continued, as neither side shied away from contact, each determined to end their season with a W. Out of that fray, the Huskies carried a slim 46-45 lead into the fourth (but not final) quarter.

Though both squads continued to exchange blows as the clock ticked down, St. Clair found itself precariously atop the seesaw battle, 66-64 with 12 seconds left.

Enter Tianna Sullivan.

As the game progressed, she had managed to create room against the Saints defence, as her 19 points at the time could attest. And with one second left before the final buzzer, the Huskies All-Canadian, OCAA League Scoring Champion and OCAA East Division First-Team All-Star was sent to the line, with a chance to tie it and no room for error. No pressure.

Big game players are made for, and made by, moments such as this. At the OCAA Championship, game in her hands, the gymnasium holding its breath and all eyes watching.

"It was a little bit nervous," Sullivan said in an early contender for understatement of the year. "Because I knew my team was relying on me to make those two free throws. But then I just had to get that out of my mind, saying, 'You know, I can do it. This is why I'm an All Canadian.'

"And then I made my free throws."

That she did, making it look easy while sending those present into a frenzy and the game into overtime.

Following such an emotionally charged moment, the fifth period was almost anticlimactic. This was especially true after Sullivan, Sherral Wilson and Krystal-Ann Elento all fouled out in the extra frame, a consequence in part of the fourth quarter's late stages, when fouls were needed to keep St. Clair in check.

Coupled with Aprille Deus leaving the court due to injury, the Saints seized the opportunity to post 16 points vs. George Brown's nine, taking the W. 

By game's end, Sullivan had evaded coverage to the tune of a 28-point, 14-rebound performance, and was rewarded with player of the game honours as a result.

The reality of competitive sports is that one team has to win and the other has to lose. At the very least, this was a game where the sting of defeat was dulled, at least somewhat, by appreciation of a tough opponent and a battle well-fought on both sides.

Given the match which was, the prevailing mood wasn't sorrowful. Rather, it was one of begrudging acceptance, and certainty on George Brown's part that they had left it all out on the court.

"I think everything that we could have ever done, we did during this game," said Deus, who posted 13 points and nine rebounds. "There's always going to be hiccups during a game, people are bound to foul out, especially with an overtime game. There's no doubt in my mind that we left it all out there."

"Absolutely zero doubt in my mind that our squad left everything there was to leave on the floor," said Williams, in lockstep with Deus's sentiment. "The effort was terrific, our attitude was terrific. We talk about play hard, play smart, play together, and our team definitely did that in this game.

"To go toe to toe with St. Clair for five quarters, I can't say enough about my squad, I'm just so proud of them."

It should not be lost in the shuffle of competitive fire that in the span of a year, this is a program which has gone from seventh in the East and missing the playoffs, to finishing sixth in the province and acquitting itself well at the OCAA Championship.

The bar has been raised, and while these Huskies aspire for higher still, the leap forward is a tremendous credit to the athletes and coaching staff, led by Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association Women's Basketball Coach of the Year nominee, Warren Williams.

"Our goal at the start of the year is always going to be to win a national championship," stated Williams. "It's never going to change. We did come short of that goal, but in terms of progress, I think we're going in the right direction."

Another reality of sports is how for some, a season's end also marks the end of an athlete's tenure. If George Brown women's basketball is heading in the right direction, and it is, not enough ink can be spilled on the role departing veteran Aprille Deus played in that shift.

Sunday may close the book on Deus's collegiate playing career, but her influence is more cornerstone than footprint.

"This is definitely not the end of any kind of legacy that I'm leaving," reflected Deus. "For me, my hope was not to become a superstar with our team, but to show and to lead and to teach the girls that we're going to be the foundation of the following years.

"To me, this year was special, we had a great group and we still have a lot of key pieces staying which is great, and a lot of good girls coming in.

"Next year, people have to watch out."


For complete stats from the OCAA Championship consolation final, click here.