HAMILTON — OUA West Coach of the Year Scott Morrison is a student of basketball, but you probably could say he's a history student as well — recent basketball history, that is.
"The last time Carleton had a 30-game win streak, we beat them."
That's what Morrison said after Saturday night's Wilson Cup championship game. Sure enough, Carleton's win streak was again snapped as the Lakehead Thunderwolves defeated the 31-0 Ravens by a score of 77-62 to win their first-ever OUA banner.
Jamie Searle scored 23 points, Joseph Jones contributed 15, and it all added up to a triumphant 15-point victory.
Not only that, it equals a milestone moment for a team that, just two seasons ago, was 6-16 and at the bottom of the OUA West. (Which itself was an improvement: in 2006-07, they were 1-21.)
"I think it means we've arrived," said Morrison. "It's been a long time since we were this high up, and it's a great accomplishment for us, but I hope it's just the start of a number of times we get to do this over the next few years."
That arrival came a little late on Saturday night, as the Ravens jumped out to a quick 10-4 lead. But after Searle's buzzer-beater to end the first quarter gave the Thunderwolves a one-point lead after one, it was all Lakehead until the end. The Wolves got stronger as the game went on, building a lead and never letting Carleton within striking distance.
The Ravens got no closer than four points in the third quarter, and fell away as Lakehead produced a 31-point fourth to lock up the victory.
Searle provided the biggest momentum shift of the Thunderwolves' run, scoring back-to-back fast break layups with seven minutes and giving Lakehead a double-digit lead Carleton couldn't recover from.
"I'm really excited. This isn't something people would have expected from Lakehead a couple of years ago," said forward Ryan Thomson, who scored 12 points.
Morrison says the way the Laurier Golden Hawks played Carleton tough in Friday night's semi-final helped dent the perceived invincibility of the no. 1-ranked Ravens.
"Last night's game gave us a sense of motivation that we could beat them, and also what Carleton would do when they got behind."
The rise of the Lakehead program became apparent last year, when the Thunderwolves got off to a blistering start. That's when they beat Carleton, who hadn't lost stretching back to the previous season, at home 76-73.
"It's been a lot of hard work. Coach preaches it on us every day, and the guys who have been here through the losing seasons and know what it's like couldn't take it anymore," said Thomson.
It was after that win over the Ravens last year that the program garnered some real attention. And after tonight, everyone knows they've made their mark.
"They wanted it more, we played like the team that already got there," said Carleton coach Dave Smart, who says he saw too many weaknesses in his team over the past month to get by in a championship game.
"That was going to happen for sure [at nationals] if it didn't happen tonight," said the coach of the previously undefeated Ravens. Smart says he's glad their first loss came tonight rather than next week.
"It probably gives us the best chance to win next week. We weren't winning [nationals] if we won this game. I promise you that," said the coach, who was optimistic his team will turn around in the five days left before the Final 8 tips off in Halifax.
"I've been around this game long enough to know these kind of issues can be fixed amazingly quickly."
Tyson Hinz led the Ravens with 19 points, while Cole Hobin added 10. Carleton committed a grotesque 25 turnovers and shot just 3-for-13 from beyond the arc.
For Morrison, the victory is sweet but not sweet enough to take his mind off next week's championship.
"We'll get ready first thing in the morning, if not before. I'll let the guys enjoy this, but it's going to be a short week and we need to figure out how to do this again next Sunday."
Already looking towards next weekend, Thomson echoed that sentiment.
"Right now, we're hoping to be cutting down some more meshes next Sunday."