Ali Sow drives against the Gee-Gees in Laurier's upset victory on Friday night (Credit: Eva Ou)
Laurier: 80 OTTAWA: 75
WATERLOO, Ont. (November 10, 2017) – Friday night’s contest against the U SPORTS No. 7 ranked Ottawa Gee-Gees at the Athletic Complex will be a game that the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks men’s basketball team and their fans will not soon forget. The upstart Hawkscame to compete for all 40 minutes, finding an answer at every turn and putting it all together to craft their best performance during Head Coach Justin Serresse
’s tenure at the helm, stunning the powerhouse Gee-Gees 80-75.
It was apparent early on that the Hawks (2-2) were not going to be intimidated or outworked by Ottawa. Facing their third U SPORTS Top-10 opponent in four games to open the season, the purple and gold had learned some lessons about how to play against the best already this year. Almost in defiant fashion, star guard Tevaun Kokko
(Markham, Ont.) buried a tray in the face of a Gee-Gees defender to open proceedings, setting a tone for Laurier that would continue throughout the night.
Whenever the game seemed to slip a little bit away from the Hawks, they showed a great deal of resiliency. A great example of this was in the third quarter when the purple and gold racked up a quick five fouls to put the Gee-Gees (2-1) in the bonus for over six minutes. This was a similar scenario to the one the Hawks faced in the second quarter last Saturday at Laurentian. They struggled to contain the Voyageurs while in foul trouble, but had learned from that situation and really clamped down on Ottawa during that stretch to keep themselves right in the thick of it, overcoming that adversity.
With the two teams within a couple points of each other for the majority of the first three quarters, Brandon Robinson
(Montreal) pushed the Ottawa lead to 59-53 going into the fourth with a pair of triples. One had to wonder if this would be a turning point where the veteran Gee-Gees would start to pull away given their experience. Not so, as the purple and gold stifled the Ottawa offence coming out in the fourth, allowing them to quickly cut the deficit back down to 61-60, forcing a Gee-Gees timeout.
Serresse cited his team’s mentality and ability to make the plays needed down the stretch to close out the game as the necessary difference to knock off a team of Ottawa’s calibre. Ntore Habimana
(Mississauga, Ont.) knocked down a key jumper, and when the Gee-Gees threatened to tie on their last possession, Matt Minutillo
(Brantford, Ont.) forced an over-and-back violation before icing the game with a pair of made free throws. These were just a couple examples of the clutch play in the fourth from the Hawks, a quarter which saw Laurier as the more composed team, outscoring Ottawa 27-16 in the final frame.
That added composure even extended to the coaching staff. Serresse admitted he was frustrated with the way he used his timeouts to control the pace of the game in the key moments against Laurentian last weekend. He credited Assistant Coach James Campbell
with helping identify and solve that issue this time around.
Serresse was understandably elated post-game with his team’s performance. A former assistant with Ottawa, being able to stun his former team made the victory all the sweeter. However, he did express concern for the health of a former player of his, as Brody Maracle (Napanee, Ont.) was forced to leave the game for the Gee-Gees with a potential concussion.
Kokko once again led the Hawks with a game-high 23 points before having to exit midway through the fourth after getting a bit banged up, leaving his status in question for Saturday. Ali Sow
(Ottawa, Ont.) had his fourth straight game in double-figures with 13, being entrusted with the majority of the ball-handling duties in crunch time. Minutillo was a workhorse Friday night, playing 36 minutes of hard-nosed basketball, taking charges, rebounding, creating turnovers, all the little plays that lead to winning basketball.
With a quick turnaround for Saturday’s clash with the No. 1 ranked Carleton Ravens (3-0), Serresse cautions his team to not get too high with the victories or too low with the losses, to just focus on performing at their best.
Asked what he would do to prepare for his former Ottawa-area rivals, Serresse responded “I am going to go upstairs right now to look over game tape until about 2:00 a.m.”
With that passion and hard-working mentality, expect more of these types of nights sooner rather than later for this Golden Hawks team.
Tip-off against the Ravens goes at 8:00 p.m. tomorrow night at the Athletic Complex