By Martin Cleary
When it was time for Jacqueline Urban to decide what she wanted to do after graduating high school, the Ancaster, ON., student-athlete studied her options and selected Carleton University.
“Fell in love with the campus and the city of Ottawa,” Urban, a psychology student, said almost 13 months ago in a press release, which announced she would be joining the Ravens’ women’s basketball program.
“I’m looking forward to playing basketball at the university level on a team (which) is motivated to win a national championship.”
Your wish is your new team’s command.
And Urban is certainly playing an important role in Carleton’s drive for its first national title since 2018 as noted by her winning the 2023 OUA and U Sports rookie-of-the-year awards.
She also was named to the U Sports all-rookie team.
Three players with Ottawa connections were selected as second team All-Canadians – Kali Pocrnic, Carleton, fourth year, Oakville, ON.; Brigitte Lefebvre-Okankwu, University of Ottawa Gee-Gees, fifth year, Gatineau; and Julia Chadwick, Queen’s University Gaels, fifth year, Ottawa.
Urban and the Ravens are on the right pathway to national greatness, after winning the OUA championship last weekend and a few days earlier qualifying for the U Sports Final 8 women’s basketball tournament, which started Thursday at Cape Breton University in Sydney, Nova Scotia.
Top-seeded Carleton escaped Thursday night with a quarter-final win to open their U Sports women’s basketball championship, recording a 56-51 victory over No. 8 Cape Breton University Capers. The Ravens trailed most of the first half, but inched ahead 30-29 at halftime.
The scrambling Ravens shot only 30 per cent from the field (24 of 80), which included converting only 9.5 per cent of their three-point attempts. Dorcas Buisa led the Ravens with 20 points and 11 rebounds, Pocrnic had 15 points and Urban grabbed 13 rebounds.
The win earned the Ravens a berth in the semifinals against No. 4 Saint Mary’s University Huskies, which shaded the No. 5 University of Calgary Dinos 70-68. The semifinals are Saturday with the medal matches on Sunday.
Despite being a first-year player for the Ravens, Urban has been a critical force for the Ravens, which finished their OUA regular season in second place in the East Division at 19-3.
Urban started 21 of the Ravens’ 22 regular-season games and was third on the team in minutes played at 594 (27.0 minutes a game).
When the ball was in her hands, she was either scoring or rebounding at a high level. She ranked second in the OUA for defensive rebounds (166) and total rebounds (238), third in rebounds per game (10.8) and sixth in offensive rebounds (72). Her overall total of 238 was a Ravens’ single-season record previously held by Heather Lindsay.
Urban scored 219 points and was a three-point basket shy of an even 10.0-point game average. Her point total also was the second most by a Ravens rookie. Shooting accuracy was high on her list as the guard hit 39.7 per cent of her field-goal attempts.
“For a freshman, there were countless times this year where she just understood when we needed a momentum shift and just willed our team to win,” Carleton head coach Dani Sinclair said about the two-time Ravens athlete of the week.
Urban had a productive 2021-22 season before entering Carleton. In her only season in the Ontario Scholastic Basketball Association prep league, she helped Lincoln Prep to a 13-4 regular-season record and a berth in the final, which it lost 74-65 to Capital Courts Academy.
In the summer, she played for Team Ontario, which won five of its six games and finished with the bronze medal at the Canada Summer Games.
Urban, who started playing basketball at age seven, also was named to the Kia Nurse Elite team in 2020. But the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League season was cancelled that season because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
A former competitive soccer player and high school volleyball player, Urban is familiar with the OUA as her sister Alexandra was a second-year guard at the University of Guelph this season and her father played rugby at Wilfrid Laurier University.
As for the all-star teams, Pocrnic, a fourth-year player, led the Ravens in scoring, averaging 16.3 points a game, and was ranked No. 1 in the OUA in assists (91 for a 4.1-a-game average) and free-throw shooting percentage (88.1).
Lefebvre-Okankwu, a fifth-year forward for the Gee-Gees, had the best field-goal shooting percentage in the OUA at 57.5, was second in minutes at 25.7 a game, and placed 10th in points at 16.1 a game.
Chadwick, a fifth-year forward at Queen’s, was No. 1 in the OUA for rebounds (12.0 a game), fourth in minutes played (23.6), sixth in blocked shots (29) and eighth in scoring (16.4 points a game).
Meanwhile, the opening game of the U Sports women’s basketball championship quarterfinals saw No. 3 Queen’s rally from small deficits after the first and second quarters and in the fourth quarter to edge No. 6 Université du Québec à Montréal Catadins 75-72 in overtime.
Chadwick had 11 points, six rebounds and two assists for the Gaels. Third-year guard Isabella Gaudet of Ottawa notched five points in 18 minutes, while Michelle Istead, a fifth-year player from Ottawa, added two points and two defensive rebounds in eight minutes.
In the semifinals, Queen’s will play No. 2 University of Alberta Pandas, which defeated No. 7 Acadia University Axewomen 61-57.
RAVENS’ WARNHOLTZ, GEE-GEES’ PEPIN NAMED BASKETBALL ALL-CANADIANS
On the eve of Carleton University’s opening game in defence of its U Sports men’s basketball championship, fourth-year guard Aiden Warnholtz was selected a first team All-Canadian for the first time.
Last week, Warnholtz was named to the OUA first all-star team and won the Ken Shields Award for Community Service.
Warnholtz, a product of the Canada Topflight Academy program, was the Ravens’ leader in points (17.0 a game) and assists (6.6 a game) while playing in all 22 OUA regular-season games. His field-goal shooting percentages were almost identical – 41.5 inside the arc and 41.4 from outside the three-point arc.
He also ranked No. 1 in assists (145) in the OUA, fourth in free-throw percentage at 85.7 and fourth in minutes played at 732.
University of Ottawa Gee-Gees forward Guillaume Pepin was named a second team All-Canadian. The fourth-year player averaged 15.9 points, 5.2 rebounds and 1.8 assists a game and also was ranked 15th in the OUA with a three-point shooting percentage of 38.3.
In the scheduled opening quarter-final matches Friday, No. 3 Carleton will play the No. 6 Université du Québec à Montréal Catadins, and at 1 p.m. EST the No. 2 University of Ottawa will face the No. 7 University of Winnipeg Wesmen at 3 p.m. EST.
Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 50 years. A past Canadian sportswriter of the year and Ottawa Sports Awards Lifetime Achievement in Sport Media honouree, Martin retired from full-time work at the Ottawa Citizen in 2012, but continued to write a bi-weekly “High Achievers” column for the Citizen/Sun.
When the pandemic struck, Martin created the High Achievers “Stay-Safe Edition” to provide some positive news during tough times, via his Twitter account at first and now here at OttawaSportsPages.ca.
Martin can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @martincleary.
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