For the Ottawa Gee Gees, Friday’s OUA semifinal will be all about payback.
The Lakehead Thunderwolves beat them out last year for the final spot at nationals, then knocked them off 68-65 earlier this season, the only times the two teams have met since last spring.
However, LU coach Scott Morrison said while his team’s recent successes have softened past frustrations against Ottawa, he’s not in a forgive-and-forget mood this weekend.
“Like I told the guys, I have more losses than anybody, so I still have a lot of revenge left to give out and hopefully we’ll be equally as hungry as them or more this week,” Morrison said.
In fact, until last year’s bronze-medal game upset, a 78-73 shocker over a team that pummeled the Wolves by 37 points in the regular season, the Gee Gees had owned Lakehead during Morrison’s tenure. Ottawa won eight straight regular season matches dating back to 2002-03, the season before Morrison took over the team.
But in a win-or-go-home scenario like the one facing the Thunderwolves on Friday night, past results matter little, Morrison said.
Keeping the Gee Gees from scoring is all that counts.
Defence is what has brought the Wolves to within one win of a berth at next weekend’s nationals in Halifax, and it’s what will lead them past the Gee Gees if that’s their fate at the OUA Final Four in Hamilton this weekend, especially if their normally hot shooters go cold.
“We’ll definitely have to rely on our defence for times like last Saturday when we shot 0-for-our-first-18 from three (point land),” Morrison said.
“But the most important thing is our energy and our effort.”
The Wolves went up 12-2 early on Western in the OUA quarterfinal, but found themselves trailing by six deep into the third quarter only to pull away in the fourth, on their way to a 63-49 triumph.
He’d like to see a repeat of the early stages of the game, but rewrite the middle portion to make it a little less suspenseful.
“The start will be big this weekend. We want to get the first punch in and then try to maintain our standard that we set,” he said.
Morrison is not expecting an easy haul against Ottawa, and has adjusted his game plan accordingly. The Gee Gees boast top scorers Warren Ward and Johnny Berhanemeskel, each of whom is in the top 12 in the OUA, which Morrison said could work in the Wolves favour.
“Those are the guys who are the focal part of their offense, guys we’re going to have to pay attention to on Friday.”
The No. 7 Wolves, should they lose to Ottawa, would technically still have a chance to advance to nationals, but with only one wild-card berth available, it’s not something Morrison is counting on. With the University of British Columbia, Trinity Western and Saskatchewan all ahead of them in the rankings, it’s likely one of those three teams will get the eighth and final slot.
The latter two teams will battle it out in one of two Canada West finals this weekend, while UBC takes on Alberta in the other semifinal.
Morrison said their best scenario is to just get the job done and win their way in on their own merits.
“We really don’t think we have a chance to get (the wild card), based on the strength of the West,” he said.
Friday’s semifinal will be televised live on The Score from Hamilton. Thunder Bay’s Glenn Schiiler is expected to be part of the broadcast team.
Tip-off is 6 p.m.