The Helen Campbell Tournament is an annual event hosted by the Varsity Reds. It is in honour of Helen Campbell, a former UNB basketball player with the UNB Red Bloomers until 1934. She always showed unwavering compassion and commitment to both UNB and its varsity athletics. A memorial award in her name is given to a member of the women’s basketball team every year.
The tournament coincides with Eric Garland tournament—UNB’s men’s basketball tournament.
“For me it’s like the most exciting weekend of the year,” said Grace Wade, though it still comes second to AUS playoffs for her. “It’s such a fun weekend; we often have teams—and this year is no different—from out of conference, so it’s kind of nice get a chance to see where you stand against teams in the rest of the country .”
This year the tournament was slated with teams from Ontario, Quebec and the AUS. Laval, Laurentian, Acadia and UNB played in a round robin style competition. UNB not only got a chance to see teams from out of conference, but was also able to playoff against the second best team in the nation from last season and one of their rivals within the AUS.
First against the Second: Laval
In their first game of the tournament, UNB was matched up against the number two team in the nation last year: the Laval Rouge et Or. UNB stayed within five points after the first quarter, but were quickly outrun and out-shot by the all-star team. Towards the end of the first half, the Reds picked up the pace—but to no avail as the Rouge et Or still managed to outscore them 21-13 for the quarter.
After half, UNB’s shooting percentage dropped—and while their defensive effort piqued, they could not keep up. In the final quarter, the Reds lost momentum and Laval scored five three-point shots in addition to their field goals, leaving the score at 81-47. The player of the game for UNB was Fredericton native, fifth-year Laura Kaye. She scored 17 of the team’s 47 points, followed by her fellow fifth-year starters Grace Wade and Hannah Currie with eight and seven points respectively.
“It’s tough going into a game—with Laval being number two in the country last year…and it’s our first game,” said Kaye.
Going into the next match against Laurentian, the team had the goal of improving their defensive game and ensuring that their offensive game stays consistent.
Coming out of their first game, the team was staying positive.
“I think that knowing it’s the pre-season and that there’s only up to go from here is kind of the perspective we had to take,” said Laura Kaye after the game.
The regrouped squad came storming out of the gates, outscoring the Laurentian Voyageurs by double in both the first and second quarters. UNB managed to finish each of the first three quarters with a late, momentum-building shot—each sparking energy heading into the next. In the final quarter, UNB struggled to sink their shots and had a string of turnovers and fouls that only hindered their offensive effort.
The Reds outscored the Voyageurs 82-44, handing Laurentian their second loss of the tournament and adding one win to UNB’s tournament tally. Their on-court communication and play execution had improved and allowed the team to capitalize on plays that the day before would have been missed chances. Scoring was spread amongst all players, lead by Kaye with 22 points followed by Nicole Esson with 14. Currie and third-year Grace Simpson contributed to the defensive effort immensely with 10 and 12 rebounds respectively.
“I think our defensive effort was a lot better; it can still improve a lot more for tomorrow, but it improved so much from yesterday and it will be a deciding factor tomorrow if we step that up even further,” said Kaye.
Last Stand: Acadia
The Helen Campbell Tournament saved its best for last. Acadia and UNB met twice last season—both times in favour of the Reds, but close nonetheless. Acadia went on to lose in the 2017 AUS playoffs to Cape Breton, the team that knocked UNB out of the competition.
UNB started the game with a spark, staying aggressive both offensively and defensively. After the first quarter, the Reds were in the lead 29-15. The second quarter was more contentious, with the Axewomen outscoring the Reds 20-13. UNB rode the buffer they built in the first quarter to carry their lead into the second half.
After the break, Acadia came back to outscore the Reds 21-16, slipping into the pole position. In the fourth quarter UNB lost focus and their offense suffered as a result. The squad only made four of their 19 two-point shot attempts, one three-point shot, and two free throws. Acadia managed twice as many two and three-pointers in addition to eight free throws in the final ten minutes. UNB fell to Acadia 82-69 after leading for the majority of the game.
“We ran the ball extremely well in the first half and shots just weren’t dropping for us in the second,” said Currie. “We missed quite a few things that really had nothing to do with [Acadia]. We just had a couple of mental lapses that they took advantage of.”
The team is looking forward to meeting Acadia in January, Currie noted that they need to “focus on playing four quarters always.”
Acadia finished in first place after winning all three of their games. Axewoman Paloma Anderson won the tournament’s Most Valuable Player award. The tournament all-stars were UNB’s Wade and Kaye, joined by Kelsey Rice of Acadia. Laval finished second after losing to Acadia, and UNB beat out Laurentian for third.
The Varsity Reds women’sbasketball team will play their home opener on Friday Nov. 3rd at 6 p.m. against the Cape Breton Capers.