PREVIEW: WBASK to battle Lakehead in first round of playoffs
After playing Thunderwolves close last weekend, the Hawks will be shooting for the upset on the road Wednesday night

Tuesday, February 20, 2018 - Posted by Jamie Howieson

Gate Date/Time: Wednesday, Feb 21 – 7 pm
Game Location: C.J. Sanders Fieldhouse, Thunder Bay
Live Webcast:

The Low Down
After losing two close games to the Lakehead Thunderwolves on the weekend, the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks women’s basketball team will look to rebound on Wednesday in the game that truly matters: a first round OUA playoff matchup. Set for a 7 pm tip-off, Wednesday’s game will be against the same Thunderwolves team they just played, but with larger stakes as the winner moves on to the OUA Quarter-finals while the loser will have their season come to a close.

Through their play over the weekend, the sixth-seeded Hawks have proven that they can hang with the third-seeded Thunderwolves. Over the two games, the point-differential was a mere five between the two contests as Lakehead snagged a 60-58 overtime victory on Friday and followed it up with a 62-59 win on Saturday.

Last Playoff Meeting
The two teams last met in the playoffs in the quarter-finals of the 2009-10 season. The Hawks will be looking to avenge a 70-64 defeat suffered that night.

Laurier Keys to the Game 
1.    Shutdown Grant
- Thunderwolves forward Leashja Grant (Nassau, Bahamas) leads the league in points (22.3) and rebounds (14.4) per game. A force on the inside, the former Texas Tech standout proved to be tough to handle for Laurier, as she recorded two double-doubles on the weekend. The Hawks however, did manage to limit her scoring on the second night. On Friday, she picked up 27 points and 16 rebounds, but on Saturday she was held to 16 points and 20 rebounds. 

2. Get some production from the supporting cast on offence
- In all but one game this season, Nicole Morrison (Hamilton, Ont.) has led the Golden Hawks in scoring. The Thunderwolves, certainly aware of the Hawks offensive reliance on Morrison, have had two games against the Hawks to figure out how they are going to attempt to shutdown the fifth-year guard. As the Thunderwolves will look to get the ball out of Morrison’s hands, the onus will be on the rest of the Hawks to knock down their shots. Laurier has eight players that average between 4 and 6.6 points per game, and for the Hawks to have a chance at advancing, some of them will have to score more than their average on Wednesday. 

3. Win the turnover battle 
- The Hawks were able to able to keep the games close on the weekend by consistently forcing the Thunderwolves to turn it over. On Friday, Lakehead committed 25 turnovers compared to Laurier who turned it over just 17 times. On Saturday, both teams took better care of the ball but the Hawks still won the battle 12 to 16. If the Hawks force the game to be fast-paced and a full-court battle, it will limit the opportunities for Grant to take advantage of her size down low. 

Players to Watch

Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks (10-14)
#5 Nicole Morrison (Hamilton, Ont.)
- The fifth-year guard became Laurier’s all time leading scorer on Friday night, surpassing Meghan McGrath for the most points in school history.
- This season, the Hamilton native is producing per game averages of 19.3 points, 4.4 assists, and 4.4 rebounds. 

#7 Maya Day (Kitchener, Ont.)
- With Morrison moving on after this season, Day, a first-year guard, will earn valuable playoff experience on Wednesday before she is potentially handed the keys to run the offence next year.
- Over the two games on the weekend, the Kitchener native totalled 17 points and nine assists. 

Lakehead Thunderwolves (16-8)
#23 Leashja Grant (Nassau, Bahamas)
- A former starter at Texas Tech, the fourth-year forward leads the league in points (22.3) and rebounds (14.1).

#8 Nikki Ylagan (Mississauga, Ont.) 
- The second-year guard came off the bench in both games on the weekend but scored double-digit points in both contests. The Hawks will need to force her off the three-point line as all 12 of her points on Friday and six of her 10 on Saturday were via long-range bombs.

- written by Matt Strapp

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