Back from a rainy Southern Ontario after a tremendous night of basketball at McMaster which saw two very exciting games and, more importantly, a large, boisterous crowd estimated at over 2,000 in Mac's gym which is a fine venue for this event. Congratulations to Darren Cates and the entire organizing committee for a wonderful event. Now on to the games...
Lakehead blew a huge lead as their on-fire shooting suddenly went cold in the face of a more aggressive and organized Gee-Gees defense while 6'9" Louis Gauthier caught fire. In the end, a well executed final possession by the Thunderwolves, in which crisp ball movement beat Ottawa defensive rotations, 6'2" Venzal Russell knocked down an open 20 footer from the left baseline with 0.7 seconds remaining to break a tie and sent Lakehead to Halifax.
Credit Ottawa rookie Head Coach James Derouin with a bold move sitting his OUA 1st Team all-star forward 6'6" Warren Ward down for a big stretch of the second half when all appeared lost for the Gee-Gees. With their usually reliable star scorer on the bench, Ottawa staged a dramatic comeback led by Gauthier, who had an excellent duel inside with Lakehead's slick 6'6" post Yoosrie Salhia all evening long, and 6'5" fifth-year senior Nemanja Baletic, who had a career effort, igniting Ottawa with a three pointer and then making several big offensive plays in the second half.
With the game tied in the final minute, Lakehead's star shooting guard Jamie Searle stole an in-bounds pass but the ball was knocked away and in the ensuing scramble, Gauthier picked it up and hit a clutch 15 footer with the shot clock set to expire. Searle, who did not make a field goal in the game, then did what fifth-year seniors are expected to do, first making a play offensively, driving to the rim and getting fouled. After making both free throws to tie the game and a Gee-Gees timeout with 19 seconds remaining, Searle deflected and then recovered a post entry pass from the wing by 6'2" Jacob Gibson-Bascombe, setting up Lakehead's final possession.
Earlier Lakehead had jumped out to leads as large as 18 behind Russell, who got to the rim, Salhia who was very good inside getting to the rack when not doubled and 6'1" Ben Johnson who hit three 3's in the second quarter for the Thunderwolves. Ottawa got it to 13 by halftime and then scored the first 5 points of the third quarter, illicting a quick timeout from Lakehead Head Coach Scott Morrison, who now has guided the T-Wolves to consecutive Final 8 appearances. Lakehead withstood the initial Ottawa charge and led by 10 going into the fourth but could not score consistently in the face of the Gee-Gees strong team "d".
In the end, Lakehead's 1st team all-star graduating senior Searle shook off an uncharacteristic offensive performance to get it done on the defensive end. Lakehead meets Carleton for the Wilson Cup OUA championship this evening.
In the night cap, Peter Campbell's Laurier Golden Hawks accomplish several things that virtually no team this season could do. In garnering leads as large as 12, the Hawks forced Carleton Coach Dave Smart to move away from the doubling teaming pressure that the Ravens have used more consistently this season by not only not turning it over (only two turnovers the entire game against the double teaming pressure) but making Carleton pay with open 3's and layups.
As well, for the first time in recent memory, the Ravens allowed multiple early offense layups as the Hawks attacked Carleton in transition. More surprisingly, Laurier outrebounded Carleton at both ends for much of the first 25 minutes of play. 6'5" Kale Harrison put on another offensive show with 23 points in the first half, once again lighting up Ravens 6'5" Defensive POY Cole Hobin with an array of long 3's, floaters in the lane and up and under moves which dazzled the crowd.
With all that said and Carleton on the ropes, the Ravens were still able to correct their defensive issues: Coach Smart put 6'2" Phil Scrubb, who was the Ravens best overall player on the night, on Harrison in the second half and held him to just 3 points. Offensively, Carleton began attacking the bigger but slower footed Laurier defenders off the dribble and getting to the rim consistently. Carleton shot just 10 3's all evening and still scored 83 points, going 27 for 56 from two point land. Scrubb and Hobin were especially effective off the bounce beginning about mid-way through the third quarter when Carleton held Laurier without a field goal for about 7 consecutive possessions. The Ravens finally took the lead late in a very well-played and crowd friendly game.
Tonight's Wilson Cup OUA championship game begins at 8 PM from Hamilton.
The OUA post-season awards were also presented at a breakfast yesterday morning and there are several articles summarizing the recipients including Wayne Kondro's piece in the Ottawa Citizen Ravens sweep OUA honours plus Larry Moko in the Hamilton Spectator Hinz, Kuon win OUA awards
Game reports from Thunder Bay News Ottawa Citizen Gee-Gees bounced in OUA semi-final