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Jamie Searle (Lakehead): 23 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 turnovers
Tyson Hinz (Carleton): 19 points, 5 rebounds
HAMILTON, ON – The Lakehead Thunderwolves won the 2011 Wilson Cup by beating the Carleton Ravens 77-62 at McMaster University’s Burridge Gymnasium.
The Carleton loss ends the team’s bid at a fourth straight OUA title and gives, rather, Lakehead the first Wilson Cup of its history.
“I feel real ecstatic right now,” said third-year guard Greg Carter. “It was a great performance tonight as a team.”
The first quarter was the expected defensive battle and, after fifth-year Thunderwolves player Jamie Searle hit a three-point shot at the buzzer, Lakehead led 15-14. This proved to be a lead it would not relinquish.
“It’s unbelievable,” simply said Venzal Russell.
In the first half, both teams showcased why they were the two best defensive teams in the OUA in the regular season, as every shot was contested and defensive rebounds were usually secured. Such a game played right into the hands of Lakehead, which doesn’t have the explosiveness of Carleton offensively.
Down 32-26 to start the third quarter, Carleton pulled to within 43-39, but Lakehead answered. That margin of four points would be as close as the Ravens would get.
Scott Morrison, the Thunderwolves head coach, believed that this was key. “When they came after us in the second half, we kept hitting shots, hit our free throws and kept pushing until the end,” said Morrison.
The Thunderwolves pulled away with a 31-point fourth quarter, led by Searle. He bounced back nicely from a difficult game against Ottawa a night earlier, to score a game-high 23 points and earn MVP awards.
“We knew we had to outwork them,” said Searle. “We knew (that) if we kept it close in the fourth quarter , it was our game for the taking.”
The Lakehead leader acted upon those words, breaking down the Ravens defense to set up teammates with open shots or driving all the way to the basket. He took over in the fourth quarter, sealing his team’s win with two steals and layups to push the lead to 15 points, 66-51 with just over 2 minutes remaining in the game.
Sometimes, a cliché is tried and true and this OUA final illustrated as much: defense usually wins championships. By holding Carleton almost 30 points below its 91.6-point-per-game average of the regular season, Lakehead gave itself a chance to win.
“They wanted it more, we played like the team that already got there,” said Carleton head coach Dave Smart. He explained that perhaps the only positive to this loss was that it occurred before the national championships.
Even though his team’s spot in the CIS Final 8 was assured prior to the game, Carter wanted a win. “Going into the nationals, we (wanted) to show people that we’re not a team to mess around with,” said the guard from Ottawa.
Hinz was the offensive star for the Ravens, but received little help otherwise. Carleton’s typical depth was nonexistent against Lakehead, as only Cole Hobin managed to score in double-figures with 10 points.
Lakehead enjoyed a more balanced effort, with four Thunderwolves players scoring at least 10 points. Searle led the way while starters Yoosrie Salhia and Ryan Thomson got 10 and 12 points respectively. Reserve Joseph Jones, from Washington, DC, chipped in with a very efficient 15 points.
“We are really deep,” said Carter. “Tonight, I didn’t have a great performance but Ben Johnson came off the bench… and finished the game for me.”
Morrison thanked the Lakehead fans after the win, who traveled in large numbers for the Wilson Cup and essentially made this final a home game for the Thunderwolves. “A lot of these guys in those stands took in a lot of losses to watch us get to this point, and this win’s for them,” he said.
One week before the beginning of the CIS Final 8 in Halifax, Lakehead believes it sent a warning to the rest of the field. “(Teams) will see that we’re for real and last year was a fluke season,” said Russell.
They perhaps also gave everyone the blueprint on beating the mighty Carleton Ravens. Mostly, it comes down to confidence. “Not being afraid,” said Carter. “That’s the key.”
“Don’t be scared just because they have ‘Carleton’ across their chest. Just come out to play like they’re anybody (else),” said Russell.
With additional reporting from Jovan Brkic