The Niagara Knights women's basketball program (1-0, 1st OCAA West) put on a spectacular fourth-quarter performance in front of their home crowd in their season opener this past Friday night. After trailing against the visiting Redeemer Royals (0-1, 3rd OCAA West) for most of the game, including a 21-point deficit with 8:17 remaining in the game, the Knights stormed back to force over-time.
Bridget Atkinson (Welland) was dominant in her first game in a Knights uniform, finishing the game with 30 points, 17 rebounds, 7 assists and 6 steals. Her biggest moment of the game came with 6 seconds left on the clock when she drilled a pull-up jump shot from the free throw line to tie the game at 73 each and force over-time against a stunned Royals team.
It was late in the third quarter when the momentum really started to shift, as Tia Stys (St. Catharines) started the improbable Niagara run by converting on a three-point foul play. The Knights began their surge of unanswered offence, inching closer and closer as the game slowly switched directions. Stys finished the game with 23 points and 14 rebounds.
Overtime was back and forth as each team swapped buckets for several minutes without a stoppage in play, but it was the Knights that pulled away in the end and earning the hard-fought 83-79 victory.
Hannah Baker also had a great game for the Knights, putting up 15 points thanks to drawing some key fouls and converting five of her six attempts from the free throw line.
"We did not play well for three quarters," said Knights head coach Michael Beccaria. "We showed some great character and resiliency in overcoming a huge fourth quarter deficit, but as coaches we would prefer to not have to do that on a consistent basis."
The win marked the first time the Knights have won their home opener since the 2014-15 season when they defeated the Lambton Lions. By winning their first game of the season, Niagara is on the right track in their attempt to surpass their 14-6 record from a year ago, where they finished 4th in the province at the OCAA Championships.
"We're still trying to find out who we are and what we're capable of," said Beccaria. "We have athletes, which is important at this level, but it's going to take some time to turn it into a medal contending unit."
The Knights will travel to Conestoga College on Wednesday, October 24th to take on the Condors, with opening tip scheduled for 6pm. The Knights will next play at home on November 1st in the annual Blue & White game, as the Humber Hawks come to town. The night will feature a tailgate in TheCore, giveaways, and a night of entertainment.