Warren Ward can cook.
Just ask Windsor Lancers head coach Chris Oliver, who was forced to watch the fifth-year forward carve up every defender the Lancers threw at him. The Ottawa Gee-Gees used a near triple-double performance from Ward to beat Windsor 78-58 in the second OUA semifinal Friday night.
Sunday is the one-year anniversary of Ward's ACL surgery, and it's almost as if he was celebrating it. He put together one of the most dominant performances of his career and his play seemed to inspire his teammates. Windsor's Evan Matthews and Ismar Seferagic took turns defending the OUA East All-Star because of the size match-up. Ward proceeded to take advantage of the speed disparity, however, and put the Lancer big men on skates multiple times.
When the Lancers would throw a double team, Ward had no problem finding a teammate. He finished with six assists on the night, and that statistic is a sign of his development. The fifth-year has raised his play-making ability over the course of his Gee-Gees' tenure and it's beneftted the team immensely.
Ward finished the night with 26 points on 11-14 shooting (including 4-5 from downtown), eight rebounds, and six assists. Teammate Johnny Berhanemeskel also had an impressive game, dropping 21 points with five treys.
Most fans will remember "Worldwide" Warren Ward's ridiculous all-around game here, but the other important story of this game is the near-perfect play of James Derouin's Gee-Gees.
Derouin's group have come a long way from the beginning of the season. They were more than prepared for a deep Windsor team with a suffocating defence. While Mike L'Africain's 3:4 assist/turnover ratio is not an impressive statistic, he deserves major props for the way he handled the vicious full-court Lancer press. Windsor can win games simply from Oliver's expertly crafted and fast-pace D; in return, L'Africain not only beat the press, but was also able to make smart decisions to find open teammates and turn a near-turnover into an open shot.
As with the previous semifinal match-up from Friday, injuries played a major role in this game. Windsor point guard Josh Collins, who had played at least 35 minutes in 13 of his team's previous 22 conference games and did not miss one of them, suffered an ankle injury in practice and the loss showed for the Lancers.
Michael Petrella, a fifth-year transfer from Guelph, is a capable fill-in for Collins, but Enrico Diloreto dominated the ball much more than usual. While Diloreto is a fantastic scorer, finishing second in points per game for Windsor, he can also disrupt an offense because of over-dribbling and trying to do too much. The Gee-Gees took full advantage of this, by daring the guard to try to beat them on his own. Diloreto played right into Ottawa's plans, finishing with a 6/18 shooting performance.
Lien Phillip put together a decent performance for Windsor, with 19 points on 6-of-13 shooting and a game-high 10 rebounds, but he also led both teams with six turnovers.
With the win, the Gee-Gees became the first OUA team to earn a Final 8 berth this year — joining Carleton, who had already qualified automatically as hosts. This victory also pits Ottawa against those very same cross-town rival Ravens in Saturday's Wilson Cup final. The last game between these teams was a triple-overtime classic, with Carleton finally grabbing the victory 111-107. This year's OUA final could be a nailbiter, reminiscent of the Lakehead-Ottawa semifinal from 2011.
Windsor will battle Lakehead for third-place in the OUA, and for what will likely be the only other Final 8 berth available to an OUA team.