Saint Mary’s Huskies Looking to Climb Back Into Playoff Picture in 2019-20

Ndaye, Belinda
Forward Belinda Ndaye (12) is one of two graduating players that the Saint Mary’s Huskies honoured at the end of the 2018-19 season. (Source: Eric Wynne – The Chronicle Herald) (Header: Brantford Expositor)

HALIFAX, NS — If you’re reading this, it’s not too late.

The 2019-20 basketball season is right around the corner, and we’re here to help you get set for what will surely be an incredible journey.

While we’re still looking back on an incredible 2018-19 season, one that saw two teams win their first-ever National Championships in school history, it’s also the perfect time to look ahead. The 2019-20 season promises to deliver a heightened level of excitement, and we can’t wait to see what’s in store for the new campaign.

To get fans across the country ready for the new season, we’ve taken on a challenge that hasn’t been done before. In the coming weeks, we will preview every team from coast to coast ahead of the 2019-20 season.

That’s 111 different programs, if you’re keeping a tally.

From August 8th through to October 6th, every team will be previewed in some capacity. For institutions that have both men’s and women’s basketball, a separate preview piece will be done for each team.

Rosters will be dissected and a look back at the year that was will help us determine what the team looks like this time around as every team begins with a blank slate in the standings.

Without further adieu, here is today’s preview on the women’s basketball program for the Saint Mary’s Huskies.

2018-19 in Review

It was a rocky 2018-19 season for the Huskies.

Just two years ago, during the 2016-17 season, the Huskies were atop the AUS standings. They finished that season with 40 points, tied atop the league standings with the New Brunswick Reds. They earned themselves a First Round bye in the playoffs and they were the team to beat in the conference.

Fast forward to the 2018-19 season, and the Huskies found themselves on the outside looking in at the playoff picture.

The Huskies opened the 2018-19 season with a seven-game losing streak. They didn’t win a game in the fall semester during the regular season. In fact, it wasn’t until January 4th, their first game of the 2019 calendar year, that the Huskies broke into the win column. In a four-point game, the Huskies knocked off the winless St. FX X-Women, 80-65.

From there, the Huskies would lose eight straight before notching another win. Saint Mary’s would win just twice the rest of the year, posting an overall record of 3-17 in AUS play to finish in seventh place.

Things could have been much better if any of their close games went their way. Eight of the Huskies’ losses were decided by single-digits, meaning that, in a perfect world, they could have posted a winning record if all those games went in their favour.

Looking ahead to the upcoming 2019-20 season, the Huskies will be looking to regain some of their glory from two years ago. With their top two scorers back in tow for the upcoming season, the Huskies have their sights set on securing a playoff spot and giving themselves a shot at contending for an AUS title.

Who’s Gone?

At year’s end, the Huskies honoured their two graduating players before their final home contest in a Saint Mary’s jersey. While they didn’t post team-high marks in terms of offensive production, their overall presence on the team and experience will surely be missed.

Up front, the Huskies will look to fill the void left by the graduating Belinda Ndaye (Toronto, Ont.). Last season, Ndaye made 16 starts while appearing in all 20 regular season games, leaving a hole to fill in the starting lineup. In just shy of 20 minutes of court time per night, Ndaye posted 4.5 points and 4.0 rebounds per contest on 43.5% shooting from the floor.

Also gone from last year’s team is veteran forward Josie Gascoigne (Dartmouth, NS), who graduated from the program after four years. Gascoigne posted an average of 8.3 points and 4.4 rebounds per contest while shooting 35.3% from the field and 81.1% from the free throw line. An impact player on both ends of the floor, Gascoigne will be missed this season.

Gascoigne, Josie
Josie Gascoigne may have graduated from the Saint Mary’s program following last season, but the family name remains with the Huskies in 2019-20. (Source: The Coast Halifax)

Both Ndaye and Gasocigne weren’t the team’s highest producers in terms of per game averages, but their experience and talent will still be missed. However, their departures will allow for the next women in line to step up, take on expanded roles, and help the team progress as they aim to make it back to the post-season.

Who’s Back?

The 2019-20 roster has yet to be finalized, but we’re speculating that most of the core group for the Huskies will be back this season. Saint Mary’s will return their top two scorers from last season, giving the team one of the better, more experienced back court tandems in the conference this year. Factor in some key role players who will take on new roles this year, the Huskies will look to improve on their 3-17 record from a season ago.

Alaina McMillan (Brantford, Ont.) was the Huskies’ top scorer last season, and is back for another run at the AUS title. McMillan posted a team-best 13.0 points per game on 33.9% shooting from the floor. She started the season and her AUS career off strong, posting three games with double-digit points within the Huskies’ first four contests.

McMillan Alaina
Brantford native Alaina McMillan is back for another season with the Huskies, and is one half of their talented back court tandem. (Source: Brantford Expositor)

On top of her offensive production, McMillan also put together 11 games with at least four assists. She averaged 3.9 rebounds and 3.9 assists per contest, showcasing her two-way talent and ability to impact the game on both ends of the floor.

Joining McMillan in the back court for another season is Arianna Macias (Tampa, Fla.). Macias is the team’s top returning rebounder, having recorded 5.2 rebounds per contest to go along with her 12.1 points per game on the offensive end of the floor. Over the course of the year, Macias posted four games with 20+ points.

From November 16th through to January 4th, a stretch of four games, Macias recorded double-digit points in each game, showcasing her ability to lead the team from an offensive standpoint. This season, Macias and McMillan give the Huskies an experienced and talented back court who will look to lead the Huskies back to the playoffs after last year’s hiatus.

Last season, Kendra MacKinnon (Pictou, NS) was primarily used off the bench. While she saw the floor in all 20 regular season games, MacKinnon made just four starts on the year. Still, she averaged 8.2 points and 3.9 rebounds per contest while shooting an impressive 92.1% from the free throw line. She was the team’s top reserve in 2018-19, but with the departure of both Ndaye and Gascoigne, look for MacKinnon to slot into the starting five on a more regular basis in 2019-20.

On the bench, the likes of Jada Yeo (Cornwall, PE) and Estelle Eduardo (Villeurbanne, Rhone-Alpes) are expected back in a Saint Mary’s uniform this season. Both gave the Huskies significant contributions off the bench, averaging more than 5.0 points per game each.

With their top two scorers back for another go-round, the Huskies have to be optimistic about their chances this season and the overall future of their program. In addition to their five key returnees, the Huskies have added four recruits who they hope can slot in and have an impact right away.

Incoming Talent

The Huskies will welcome four new faces to the program for the 2019-20 season, all of whom will be true freshmen in the AUS. Two of their recruits were teammates in high school, while they’ve also added a pair of recruits from Nova Scotia.

Forward Lucina Beaumont (Fredericton, NB) and guard Torrie Janes (Fredericton, NB) were teammates at Fredericton High. Standing at 6’0”, Beaumont will add some size to the front court, especially with the loss of Ndaye inside. In the back court, Janes will add depth to a talented rotation that sees the Huskies’ top two scorers back for another year.

Also up front, the Huskies have added hometown forward Katelyn Power (Halifax, NS). The 6’2” forward brings even more size to the roster, strengthening the Huskies’ interior presence on both ends of the floor.

Rounding out the four-woman recruiting class for the Huskies is a player with a name that Saint Mary’s fans should be used to seeing. Clara Gascoigne (Dartmouth, NS) will follow her sister’s footsteps with the Huskies this season. The 5’11” wing will add size to the back court and versatility to the lineup from top to bottom for Coach Munro.

The Huskies have added four recruits, all of whom help the team in different ways this season. They’ve upgraded their front court rotation by adding two players with size, both of whom will help the Huskies contend with the other teams in their conference. On the back end, adding two more guards to an already talented group is never a bad thing.

In the span of two seasons, the Huskies went from first in the AUS to missing the playoffs altogether. Heading into the 2019-20 season, the Huskies will be looking to find a way back into the post-season picture after missing out last year by a sizable margin in the standings.

While the program won’t do a complete turnaround overnight, Coach Munro and his staff have things heading in the right direction. With key players back for another season, plus a talented four-woman recruiting class in tow, the pieces are starting to come together.

The Huskies likely won’t win the AUS this season, but they will benefit from several of the league’s stars having graduated from last season. An improved season is in the cards for the Huskies as they look to take a positive step forwards after two steps backward in each of the past two seasons.

Be sure to bookmark our 2019-20 Season Previews page to keep up with the previews as they are released online.

– T. Bennett

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