EDMONTON, Alb. – Eighth-seeded NAIT Ooks pulled off an opening round upset of No. 1 Humber Thursday night in front of a large partisan crowd. Playing with home court advantage, the Ooks (26-2) were able to outlast the Hawks, winning the quarter-final matchup 55-52.
The OCAA's top offensive program struggled from the floor all night long and the Hawks (21-1) finished the game with a season-low shooting percentage of 21.3 (13 of 61).
National player of the year Ceejay Nofuente paced the way for the Hawks, recording a double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds. Leticia Lopez added 13 points while all-star Aleena Domingo grabbed a game-high 14 rebounds.
All-Canadian Torey Hill recorded a double-double for the Ooks, finishing with 13 points and 14 rebounds.
Behind a rowdy crowd, NAIT opened the game on 6-2 run before Amber Bechard hit a triple to bring Humber within one. After Nofuente hit a three to give Humber a two-point lead with 2:32 remaining in the first, the Ooks then went on a 10-0 run to close out the quarter. NAIT finished the frame shooting 60 per cent from the floor (9 of 15).
Trailing by nine to begin the second, Humber's stellar defence began to take over, holding NAIT to six points on 7.1 per cent shooting (1 of 14); however the defence did not jump start Humber's cold offence. Lopez scored five of Humber's 11 points in the quarter and the Hawks went into half trailing 28-24.
The Ooks came out of the locker room focused, capitalizing on Humber turnovers and returning to its hot first quarter shooting performance. NAIT shot 8 of 17 from the floor (47.1 per cent) as Katie Waring and Tory Hill began to heat up. After 30 minutes of the play, the Ooks extended its lead to 47-38.
Down but not out, Humber clawed its way back into the game in the late stages of the fourth quarter. Fifth-year forward Chioma Oriuwa hit two free throws to cut NAIT's lead to two. After Waring hit one of two free throws, the Hawks had one last chance to tie the game. With seven seconds remaining, Humber raced up court, looking to force overtime; however its three-point attempt just missed and NAIT pulled of the upset with the 55-52 win.
Despite the struggles from the floor, Humber finished the game shooting 84 per cent from the free throw line, including 10 of 10 in the final quarter.
NAIT will head into the semi-finals for the second time in program history and will face Dawson College for a berth into the national title game.
Humber will now face Holland College in a rematch of the 2016 national championship game. Needing three wins to do so, the Hawks still have a chance to win the programs second CCAA medal and can become the first OCAA program to ever win two consecutive national medals.
Tip-off for the bronze quarter-final game against Holland is set for 3 p.m. MT / 5 p.m. ET. The livestream for the game can be found here.