TORONTO,ON – After suffering a loss to open the season, the Lakehead Thunderwolves bounced back nicely and handed the Ryerson Rams their first loss, beating them 101-74.
“It only counts the same as every other win, but it was a huge win,” said Scott Morrison, head coach of the visiting Lakehead Thunderwolves. “I think the confidence (of the team) was starting to get down, the energy was starting to get down. We needed to come here and fight, try to sneak out a win any way we could.”
The first half was hotly contested, as neither team was able to distance itself from the other. The Rams’ offense was dependent on rookie Jahmal Jones’s and Ola Adegboruwa’s ability to penetrate and either get easy baskets or set up open jump shots for teammates. The biggest beneficiary was fellow rookie Jordan Gauthier, who hit 6 of his 7 3-point shots on his way to a team-high 21 points; Gauthier had replaced injured Ryan McNeilly in the starting lineup.
Lakehead was methodical on offense and surely missed the presence of Jamie Searle, the team captain and most potent offensive player, who barely played in the first half because of foul trouble.
After Jahmal Jones hit a shot as the halftime buzzer sounded, the Rams led 38-36. Ryerson then opened the third quarter on an 11-3 run to push their lead to ten but Lakehead bounced back and outscored the Rams 29 to 10 to lead the game, 68-59, after the third quarter.
Roy Rana, head coach of the Ryerson Rams, was not pleased with the way his team responded to adversity in the fourth quarter when Lakehead pushed his lead to 83-63 with ease.
“I think it was just the team getting demoralized. Mentally, we were not tough enough to fight back when we needed to in critical moments,” said Rana. The head coach believe the team gave up in the fourth quarter, which frustrated him.
“They’re a veteran team. Hopefully for us, this is a learning experience,” said Rana.
Much like he did in the third, Thunderwolves captain Jamie Searle dominated the fourth quarter. “Jamie Searle was hot. He started feeling himself,” Greg Carter said of the play of his teammate.
Searle was dominant throughout the second half, on his way to taking player of the game honors and scoring a game-high 33 points. The fifth-year guard, from Belleville, Ont., scored at will by hitting open shots but also many contested shots.
“He does that a lot, he’s a veteran and knows how to step up for us. He had a good night,” said Carter, a third-year guard from Ottawa. Carter was happy with the way his team bounced back after losing to the Toronto Varsity Blues the previous night.
“(Friday night), we were a little timid on the offensive end and the defensive end. But (tonight), we showed our potential a lot better. We showed that we could make plays down the stretch, we made a lot of good decisions with the ball,” said Carter.
While Searle soldiered much of the load offensively, he was not alone; third-year guard Venzal Russell chipped in with 20 points to go along with 9 rebounds, 3 assists and 5 steals. Lakehead is a poised and veteran team, and it showed in how it was able to fight back.
“We have a few guys who have been around for a while and pushing guys out who just came in so, at the end of the year I think we’ll be ready to play,” said Carter. Ready to play? This could be a scary proposition for other OUA teams.
For now, the Thunderwolves resume their season next weekend, with home games against the York Lions and the Laurentian Voyageurs. Meanwhile, the Rams will visit the Western Mustangs and the Waterloo Warriors.