TORONTO, ON–Sudbury might be far from other OUA East destinations, but the Voyageurs travel well.
On Saturday, Feb. 2, the Laurentian team was in Toronto for an away game against the No. 6-ranked Ryerson Rams. And the Voyageurs gave the Rams all they could handle, eventually losing a close 89-84 game.
Despite the defeat, Laurentian head coach Shawn Swords was happy with his team’s effort. “We still managed to stay in it the whole way,” he said, “and that’s a good sign for a team.”
Early on, it’s the Rams who took control of the game. In fact they jumped out to an 11-0 lead and never trailed. Ryerson head coach Roy Rana thinks it’s definitely positive. “I think that tonight, we rose to the challenge,” he said. “We controlled from start to finish, and that’s the sign of a good team.”
At 14-2 now, Ryerson is definitely at least a good team. Part of the reason why is that it has a good mix of veteran and young players this season. Rookie Juwon Grannum is a player who hasn’t stopped improving and surprising. Rana told NPH that, “There’s a reason why we recruited him.”
“This was it tonight,” Rana said. “He was great on the glass. Offensively, he made some great decisions and he’s defended well. I’m really excited about his future here.”
Down 25-17 after the first quarter, Laurentian matched Ryerson’s 21 points in the second 10 minutes of play when fourth-year Manny Pasquale hit a jumper over Rams point guard Jahmal Jones at the halftime buzzer. Pasquale scored 15 points in the quarter, and that was the first instance of Manny being Manny. (There would be plenty more.)
The Rams added to their lead with a 10-4 run to close the third quarter and were leading 65-54 by then.
In the defeat, Nelson Yengue, a second-year player from Laurentian, impressed a lot. Yengue, a native of Yaounde, Cameroon, who played high school basketball in Atlanta, is still getting used to the Canadian cold. “Oh, it’s so cold! The transition from Cameroon and Atlanta was tough,” he said. “I was a little bit confused during my first year… The system we play is so different than the U.S., with set plays. Now, I prefer this one.”
Swords absolutely loves what Yengue brings to the table. “He is so athletic,” he said. “The energy he brings, though–he can jump out of the gym so quick.”
To open the fourth quarter, second-year Aaron Best scored seven straight points for the Rams and pushed his team’s lead to 72-54 with 9:02 left to play. Surely that was it for the Voyageurs, except that it really wasn’t.
Pasquale hit 13 of his game-high 36 points from that point on, keeping his team in the game even when they seemed to have little chance of a comeback. “Obviously, he takes a lot of crazy shots,” Swords said. “He really can make just about any shot. He seems to make tougher shots more often than he does open ones.”
In other words, that’s just Manny being Manny.
Offensively, it’s Pasquale who led the Voyageurs with 36 points but second-year Alex Ratte was no slouch either, with 22 points. But they needed more help from the rest of the team.
By comparison, Jones (21), Best (20), newcomer Ostap Choliy (13), third-year Bjorn Michaelsen (12) and Grannum (11) all scored in double figures. “I’m very pleased with the way we played,” Rana said. “They’re a good team, and they have a lot of weapons.”
The Voyageurs next play host to the Queen’s Gaels on Feb. 8. Swords said that, “We’re looking for playoff positioning now.”
That same weekend, the Rams play two games that will likely determine their own playoff seeding, as they travel to the nation’s capital for games against the 16-1, No. 1-ranked and two-time defending CIS champions Carleton Ravens on Friday night, and then against the 13-4 Ottawa Gee-Gees the following night.
Rana is just where he wants to be. “How can you not be, right?” He said. “We’ve had a pretty good season, but now the games get bigger and bigger all the way through.”
- Manny Pasquale: 36 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists
- Alex Ratte: 22 points, 4 rebounds, 1 steal
- Aaron Best: 20 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal
- Jahmal Jones: 21 points, 4 rebounds, 5 assists
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @CeeeBG & NPH @Northpolehoops