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UNB players, coaches find comradery, competition in Maritime women’s basketball league

Author: Dria McKenna

Posted on Jun 20, 2024

Category: UNB Saint John , UNB Fredericton

This spring, the Maritime Womens Basketball Association (MWBA) is blurring the lines between camaraderie and competition with members of the University of New Brunswick (UNB) women's basketball community playing on opposing sides of the court.

An unusual adversarial situation has resulted between the MWBA’s Port City Fog (Saint John) and Fredericton Freeze teams as several REDS and Seawolves players, alumni, and coaches are also members of the Fog and the Freeze.

Both teams play their home games on the Saint John and Fredericton campuses and they’ve been close competitors since the beginning of the season in early May.

The Freeze won their first head-head matchup on May 10 in Fredericton and the Fog won the rematch May 30 in Saint John. They finished the regular season only one game apart; the Freeze finished third and had a 6-4 record and the Fog fourth with a 5-5 record.

The competition and comradery between the teams were on full display at the May 30th game, which took place at the G. Forbes Elliot Athletic Centre on UNB’s Saint John campus. The game had spectators on the edges of their seats as the teams went head-to-head in a highly competitive match that turned tight-knit teammates into rivals.

With just two minutes left, the Freeze managed to bridge a gap in the score, nearly catching up to the Fog, who ultimately prevailed 63-55.

Although competition was evident on the court, collegiality between the two teams was clear once the game ended and the players left the floor.

Outside of the gym, the lobby was an intertwined sea of Fog grey and Freeze blue. At the center of the lobby, the head coach of the Port City Fog, Madeline Belding, reunited with familiar Freeze players. The last time Belding saw these girls, they were sporting REDS jerseys as they battled for the AUS championship title.

Throughout the school year, Belding is the assistant coach for the REDS women’s basketball team. She understands just how important collegiality is within the MWBA.

“It’s really cool to be able to connect with people in doing something that you love and being able to share the love of the game,” said Belding.

“Of course I’m super competitive, but at the end of the day, it’s all about the connections that you make with people and getting to watch them grow as players.”

The MWBA, which brings together a diverse group of women, forms a tight-knit fraternity where competition runs deep but community runs deeper. While coaching the Fog, Belding has had the opportunity to form meaningful connections with new players and strengthen ties with familiar REDS players.

“Getting to play for Madeline again and form that bond with her in the offseason is really nice for us,” said McKinley Bezanson, who plays under Belding both on the REDS as well as the Fog.

Not only are connections being formed between coaches and players, but also among teammates.

“Girls that I play with on the Port City Fog help me out during UNB’s season, which is really nice,” said Bezanson’s Fog teammate Avrey Alward, who is also a member of the Seawolves. “Rachel Farwell, for example, is going to be the assistant coach for UNBSJ next season, so it’s great to be able to learn from her.”

Farwell, who finished in the top 10 for points per game, is in her third season as a forward for the Fog and is joining the Seawolves coaching team in the fall.

The MWBA and UNB basketball communities form a tightly woven network. They provide spaces for women to be supported in their love for basketball, affording them the opportunity to progress as players.

“There’s no way I would be playing basketball today without the support of our community” said Katie Butts, a star Fredericton Freeze player and member of the UNB REDS basketball team.

“I really like the Freeze and the community that we have,” she said. “It’s a summer of fun and good basketball, and the dedication of the coaches and staff is really just the cherry on top.”

It was this dedication of the coaches and staff that made the MWBA possible. As the end of the third season approaches, the league stands as a testament to the passion and commitment of the New Brunswick basketball community.

“I love being able to give back to the spaces and the sport that has given me so much,” said Belding. “We are so privileged to be able to have this, so let’s enjoy it and have fun with it.”

The Fog and the Freeze have progressed to the Legacy Cup Semi-finals after winning their New Brunswick Divisional playoff games earlier this week. The Cup finals take place this weekend in Halifax, where the teams will be facing off against their Nova Scotian competitors.

UNB is well-represented in the playoffs, with the following REDS and Seawolves players and alumni battling for a chance to take home the PRO•LINE Legacy Cup.

Fredericton Freeze

  • Ann Bastien – REDS
  • Jane Boyle – REDS (BScKin’19)
  • Katie Butts – REDS
  • Katie Daley – REDS (BScKin’19 & BEd’22)
  • Maheva Ngassam – REDS
  • Jenny Nkuah – REDS (BSENR’24)
  • Amanda Russell – REDS (BSc’99)
  • Leah Travers – REDS
  • Eva Tumwine – REDS (BBA’20)

Port City Fog

  • Avrey Alward – Seawolves
  • McKinley Bezanson – REDS
  • Erin Ingalls – REDS

Photo credit: Bailey Young