As the clock strikes 3 p.m, the Tommies women’s basketball team gain first possession against the University of King’s College Blue Devils – back on their home court since last semester. Within five minutes, the Tommies are leading by three, as the score sits at 9-6. The first quarter ends with a close score of 17-15 for the Tommies. The Francis Farrington memorial games have begun.
“Playing at home is just so special too, because you’re able to have your family and friends come and watch,” said guard Emily Owens. “But then having these games have such a big meaning … makes the whole experience that much more special to everybody. We were all doing it for a reason – it was for Francis.”
Farrington was a Tommies basketball player during his years studying economics at St. Thomas University. He was named rookie of the year in 2000, and he was part of the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association’s second all-tournament team in 2002. In 2009, Farrington suddenly died, but his name lives on at the Lady Beaverbrook Gym.
STU organized a memorial fund in his honour and each year, their basketball teams play in his memory. On Feb. 19, the women’s team played, followed by the men’s team at 5 p.m.
The second quarter began and the Tommies continued their 22-15 lead with eight minutes left. The Blue Devils began to catch up, but the Tommies pushed ahead with a seven-point lead. The first half ended with two free throws and STU sitting with a 10-point lead of 37-27.
“We had an advantage playing the weekend before at Crandall,” said Owens. “Playing away is tough on its own, but by getting in that game, we got an extra game in compared to King’s [College] and [Mount Saint Vincent University.]”
Although Owen’s said they were able to release their first-game jitters, teams in Nova Scotia were still able to have ball-time over the lockdown period whereas the Tommies weren’t due to COVID-19 regulations.
“We had to come back from a two-week loss basically, while they were still practicing.”
The second half began with Owens gaining the first points driving to the basket. This quarter was riddled with turnovers, but the Tommies held up their lead. Tommie’s guard Vanessa Soffee ended their no-scoring-streak with a three-pointer. As the final minute approached, Owens sank a three and the quarter finished, with STU sitting at a 21-point lead, making it 51-30.
In the final quarter, the Tommies held up their lead. After two three-pointers from the Blue Devils, the Tommies responded with four points, making the score 59-40. The Tommies won their game 61-40, keeping their 21-point lead.
Between games, there was a ceremony to commemorate Farrington and two athletes. One male and one female received the Francis Farrington Memorial Basketball Award valued at $200 in student credit. Owens for the women’s team and Teddy Braden for the men’s team were the 2021-22 recipients.
“They started talking about the things I’ve had to overcome within the past two years, like my concussion and ankle injury, and I was like ‘oh yeah, I was the only unlucky person that did that,’” she said.
The men’s game began with the first points scored by Braden. The players played closely, but the Tommies kept their lead ending the first quarter with a three-pointer from Evan Valanne making the score 20-13.
In the second quarter, the game stayed close, with the Blue Devils cutting the lead down by six with STU sitting at 30-24. After a free throw by Geoffrey Lavoie and a block by Valanne, STU finished the quarter leading 34-25.
“It’s good to play at home in front of the whole crowd and everything – not to travel,” said center Braden. “It’s definitely good to be back and playing basketball in general.”
Braden, a master’s student at the University of New Brunswick and a full-time student at STU, wasn’t certain if he would return after losing out on last year’s season. But the Ottawa resident said he’s happy he did and although being surprised when awarded the scholarship, he said he put a lot into the team on and off the court.
“[Myself and other veterans] put a lot of time into getting the younger guys on the right page, on the right habits,” he said. “We host social gatherings, we get them in workouts, so there’s definitely a lot of leadership stuff going on behind the scenes.”
The second half began with a three-pointer from Vincent Lyttleton, pushing STU to 36-25. Halfway through the third, the Blue Devils began to close the gap, but Tyrese Paul shot a three, pushing STU to an eight-point lead with 50-42. The Tommies ended the third quarter with a score of 57-48.
The final quarter arrived and the Tommies pushed ahead 67-56 with six minutes left. In the final two minutes, Paul and Gayo Isaya gained a combined 10 points pushing a 20-point lead. The Tommies men’s team secured an 83-63 win.
Although there were mistakes within their weekend games and “rust getting knocked off,” Braden said it represents the depth their team has and their ability to pull off two wins. His goal is to win their entire division and go to nationals in Toronto.
“I have a lot of friends in Toronto,” he said. “I think my parents would come up from Ottawa too, so hopefully we can make it there.”
This weekend, both teams will host their final regular season games. Although Owens said it’s sad their season is coming to an end after losing out on a year and a half of basketball, she’s feeling ready for the next chapter.
“We have our heads down, we’re determined to come in first and we’re determined on getting this championship,” said Owens. “I think we’re all very excited for what’s coming next.”