OTTAWA — Your shots will eventually start falling as you take more of them — and if you keep going to the national quarterfinals, eventually you’ll make a semifinal, too.
The Lakehead Thunderwolves experienced both of these trends in their favour while putting away Cape Breton Friday afternoon in a furiously-paced 74-61 win, bringing Scott Morrison’s group the farthest they’ve been in four consecutive trips to the Final 8.
CBU, as they do, cranked up the tempo, but Lakehead kept up. Despite terrible first-half shooting (9 for 34 overall, 5 of 17 on threes), the GGODs were down only four at the break. Once baskets started to fall, the game couldn't help but shift back in Lakehead’s direction. It was tied at 48 heading into the last quarter, and then the T-Wolves doubled up on the Capers 26 to 13 with an otherwordly effective field-goal percentage of 81%.
Part of the reason the game was close at halftime was the now four-time-running OUA West defensive player of the year, Greg Carter, who shut down Jimmy Dorsey (now a twice-consecutive AUS MVP). In the first half, Dorsey had more personal fouls (3) than points (2), a fact that was not lost on Morrison following the game.
“You know what, I thought going into the game that we were going to move guys around on [Dorsey], and let different people get a crack at him, but I have to say Greg locked him up pretty good, getting those offensive fouls early was big.”
Dorsey certainly didn’t have his best game overall, scoring only 12 on 15 shots, while Carter forced more than his fair share of misses and turnovers. Or more simply, in Morrison’s words, “for one game the defensive player beat the offensive player.”
As Lakehead pulled away in the fourth, a Ben Johnson three with 2:50 left put them up by 13, shutting down whatever hopes the Capers had at a comeback. Getting that dagger three was partly ironic, as the Thunderwolves' strategy in the second half was, in part, to cut down their long-range attempts while finding more success inside. In so doing, Lakehead also improved their odds simply by avoiding first-year CBU guard Kayon Mayers, who, while only scoring three himself on 1-for-8 shooting, forced several stops in the first half and helped keep it close ... until it wasn’t anymore.
Johnson spoke about the second-half adjustment: “We were able to get more post touches, more paint touches, and they started to open up the three-point line. Once we found that they started to hug [the perimeter], it completely opened up the penetration. Greg made a tough, tough layup where they hit the ball and tipped it in.
“From there it just kind of fuelled us.”
So after ending Dorsey’s career, the strong collection of fifth-year seniors on this Lakehead team — Johnson, Carter, Yoosrie Salhia, Matthew Schmidt, to name just a few — will try to extend theirs. Their next game tips off against a to-be-determined opponent (either Ottawa or McGill) at 5:30pm ET Saturday.