Scott Morrison says his final words to his team will be to trust and believe in the coaches he’s leaving behind.
Morrison, who 10 years ago arrived in Thunder Bay to coach the Lakehead Thunderwolves men’s basketball program, departs next week for Maine, where he’ll serve a season as an assistant coach in the Boston Celtics system.
But first he had some unfinished business to attend to, guiding the club for one final weekend in non-conference play before hitting the road.
Thanks to guards Dwayne Harvey, and rookies Henry Tan and Jamar Coke, he’ll go out a winner.
Tan had a team-high 19 points Saturday night, while Harvey chipped in 15 and Coke added 13 to pace the Wolves to an 84-69 win over the visiting Brandon Bobcats.
Coke, who hit a clutch three down the stretch to re-establish an eight-point lead, after the Bobcats had reduced the LU lead from 13 to five in a matter of moments, spent last year on the sidelines. The Hamilton native said it took him the entire weekend to finally feel comfortable on the floor.
“I started off slow the first two games and my teammates just kept telling keep shooting the ball and you’ll get back into your rhythm,” said Coke, who is playing through a partially torn labrum and slight shoulder fracture and plans to have surgery at season’s end.
“I’ve been playing through it, just trying to play my game. I’m going to go the whole season.”
Perseverance was the key to beating the pesky Bobcats, who led by two after the opening quarter, but trailed by four at the half and never took the lead again.
Each time the visitors began a run, quieting the Thunderdome crowd, the Thunderwolves managed to swing the momentum back in their direction.
“We just kept focused and kept pushing. Coach just kept saying stick to the game plan and we stuck to the game plan and we stuck it out,” Coke said.
The Wolves had their hands full with Brandon’s Kenonte Ramsey, whose 24 points led all scorers. Playing with four fouls for much of the third quarter, his range from outside kept the Bobcats in contention until late in the contest.
After Harvey slashed to the hoop early in the fourth and extended LU’s lead to 13, Ramsey hit the first of a trio of treys in the period, the final one cutting the lead to 74-69.
It’s was as close as Brandon would come, as the Wolves went on a 10-0 run to close out the game, capturing their second win in three nights.
“It was nice to get a win. Obviously we were hoping to go 3-0 this weekend, but I think overall for the two months we’ve been working together we’ve basically reached our goals.” Morrison said. “I thought Friday could have been better, but overall I’m happy with the guys’ efforts and the execution of the overall package.”
Morrison made it clear he’s not saying goodbye, but said he will miss the day-to-day interactions of coaching the team this season.
“It’s basically been my whole life for 10 years and two months,” he said.
“I’ve been here for 124 months and it feels like every one of those days and months was put toward trying to get to where we are now. In a certain way, it’s satisfying for me to be able to leave for this season and know we’ve got a strong program, even if we are a little bit younger and rebuilding. We’re a strong team that’s a deep team. And not just players, but coaches and support staff and everything else.”
Beyond the arc: Seven-footer Brent Wallace had nine points and four boards, while sophomore guard Alex Robichaud had seven points in a reserve role … Harvey added seven assist and five rebounds to his totals … Next up for Lakehead is a road date Oct. 18 with Carleton, who barely beat Saint Mary’s in exhibition play on Saturday, winning 90-87 in Halifax.
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