THUNDER BAY – Sports – The collective heartbeat of Thunderwolf Nation beat a little faster on Valentine’s day, thanks to a 80-76 overtime thriller over the Guelph Gryphons on Friday evening. And perhaps, too, from the handy work of Joseph Nitychoruk, better known as Joey Nitro.
The beginning of the game kicked off with a thud for the home side, as the Gryphons led 18-11 after one quarter and 33-24 at the break.
As Lakehead slowly picked up their game, thanks in part to an effective zone defense, they were able to chip away at the lead, putting up 24 3rd quarter points to close the gap to 1, 49-48 after three quarters.
As the 4th quarter wore down both sides, neither team could establish any lead, exchanging baskets and body shots while doing their best to stay afloat.
Dwayne Harvey was on point down the stretch, coming up with big plays when the T-Wolves needed them. He would finish with 20 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists.
Rookie guard Henry Tan made a huge three-pointer to tie the game at 68 with under a minute left, and finished the game with 8 points and 3 assists.
As overtime took its toll, Alex Robichaud fouled out with under two minutes remaining, which brought Joey Nitro off the bench.
On the following possession the 6’7 forward finished with a post move inside, tying the game. His biggest play came in the final 24 seconds, matched up against veteran guard Zach Angus with the game tied at 76. After working the clock down under 15 seconds, Angus tried to initiate contact and draw a foul, only to have Nitychoruk back up, then force the ball out of Angus’ hands, leading to an uncontested layup, and sealing the game.
Nitychoruk finished the game with 10 points, 3 blocks and 3 steals in 14 minutes of play. Fellow forward Igor Lebov earned a double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds. Jamar Coke hit 2 three’s for Lakehead and scored 12 points with 5 rebounds, 5 assists and 4 steals.
Michel Clark shot an impressive 7-of-9 from the field (including 5 three’s) to finish with 21 points to lead the Gryphons.
Coach Matt Erdman said, “We started off slow and Guelph took full advantage of our complacency. Seeing the way we responded after a bunch of set backs is a step in the right direction. Our guys made some big plays on both ends down the stretch, some more obvious than others but credit to our guys for a character win.”
The two teams will rematch tomorrow evening at 8:00pm.