THUNDER BAY – Sports – The Lakehead Thunderwolves men’s basketball team overcame an atrocious start to the game to recover against a very hard nosed and talented McMaster team, winning 81-76 on Saturday night in front of a capacity Thunderdome crowd.
Thunderwolves Men’s Basketball Playoff Bound
McMaster opened up the game on an 11-2 run, before coach Scott Morrison brought in some bench players to switch things up. The move worked out well, with Nathan Wainwright coming off the bench to hit a big three-pointer, and reserve forward Joseph Nitychoruk putting in 6 first half points.
The bench stemmed the tide in the first quarter, getting the McMaster lead down to 19-16 after 10 minutes. McMaster came right back in the second Q, out-scoring the T-Wolves 20-11 in the quarter to lead 39-27 at halftime. Marauder big man Taylor Black had a fantastic first half, going 6-8 from the field and 5-5 on the charity stripe for 19 points. He would finish with a game-high 29 points and 7 rebounds (10-16 FG, 4-5 3FG, 5-5 FT). Black was also the reason McMaster stayed as close as they did down the stretch, playing a beautiful two-man game with his point guard Aaron Redpath a-la pick-and-roll.
With their fate hanging in the balance, the Thunderwolves came out of the gate in the second half with a purpose in mind.
Dwayne Harvey (Hamilton, ON) and Greg Carter (Ottawa, ON) turned up the D and Lakehead rolled off 6 unanswered points to begin the second half. Harvey’s production came mostly off penetration to the basket, while Carter was up to his usual tricks, pressuring the opposing point guard, and creating turnovers for uncontested layups. Carter came close to a triple double with 12 points, 9 steals and 9 assists to lead the T-Wolves.
Lakehead did its damage in the 3rd quarter, out-scoring McMaster 22-10, as the Marauders’ offense struggled to recoup its previous swagger.
Lakehead took its first lead of the game with the score 43-42. The fourth quarter was a shoot-out, with Lakehead putting up 32 points to McMaster’s 27.
Lakehead got key three-pointers from Ben Johnson (Pictou, NS), Dwayne Harvey and Ryan Thomson down the stretch to keep the Marauders at bay. Johnson finished with 13 points and 6 rebounds while Harvey led the ‘Wolves with 17 points, 5 assists and 3 boards on 7-of-9 shooting. Thomson finished with 8 points and 5 assists. Joseph Jones brought the energy as usual, scoring 9 in 15 minutes of play. Lakehead shot 6-of-9 from behind the arc in the second half, after going 3-of10 in the first.
Rounding out the scoring for the Marauders was Aaron Redpath with 16 points, 5 assists and 5 rebounds while Nathan Pelech had 10 points of his own. Joe Rocca went 3-of-11 from the field for 9 points.
Both teams shot an identical 29-of-65 from the field (44.6%), with Lakehead holding a slight edge on the glass (29-26).
Coach Scott Morrison states, “Over the years, this group of players has made a name for themselves with gritty comebacks just like the one we saw tonight. I have to give credit to our assistant coaches who came up with some excellent half-time adjustments in addition to our entire team – each man gave his all this week. McMaster played well without one of their top players [Adam Presutti] and guys like Taylor Black and Nathan Pelech really stepped up their game with excellent performances.”
Morrison concludes, “It was a classic, patented win for this group of seniors to finish their home careers. Thank you to the enormous crowd we had tonight… They were lined up out the doors an hour before the game and lined up in the parking lot an hour afterwards, it is an honor to play and coach for this school and we will do everything we can to make our supporters just as proud next week.”
With the win the Lakehead men advance to the Wilson Cup Final Four, hosted by Ryerson University at the newly renovated Mattamy Athletic Centre (former Maple Leaf Gardens), next weekend on Friday and Saturday.