Skip to content

Birds bounce wolves

If basketball games lasted only 20 minutes, the Lakehead Thunderwolves would be off to the national semifinals.
Joseph Jones. (Leith Dunick,
If basketball games lasted only 20 minutes, the Lakehead Thunderwolves would be off to the national semifinals.

It’s those final 20 minutes the official rules call for that turned out to be the Wolves downfall on Friday afternoon at the Canadian Interuniversity Sports men’s basketball championships in Ottawa.

Lakehead watched the No. 3 seeded University of British Columbia Thunderbirds erase a nine-point lead with a staggering 24-0 run overlapping the end of the first half and the start of the second, en route to a 79-58 triumph in the opening round of the Final 8 at Scotiabank Place.

"I think probably the biggest difference from a technical standpoint was our defence on the ball screen," said LU coach Scott Morrison, making his first trip to the national stage. "In the first half we hedged with the screener’s man, keeping the ball on the sideline, making it easier for us to get on the weak side.

"In the second half their ball handlers got a little tougher and beat our hedge to the middle and that created all kinds of scoring opportunities for them and they capitalized on them."

Morrison, whose team surprised the OUA with a 17-5 record during the regular season, said he’s disappointed that his team didn’t fare better, but he’s not going to dwell on the result for long.

"A loss is a loss. I’m a little disappointed with how we came out to start the (second) half, obviously. We probably did a real good job of our game plan in the first half, but for whatever reason in the second half we just weren’t quite as sound.

"Perhaps that’s where experience came through for those guys. UBC definitely stepped up their game in the second half, and maybe we were playing like we had a lead than like we were behind, which is what we did all year," Morrison said.

The Thunderbirds set the pace in the early going, opening a 10-4 first quarter advantage, with game MVP and CIS player of the year Josh Whyte sealing an 8-0 run with a basket off an LU turnover. But the Wolves fought back, scoring five in a row off free throws and crawled to within one, 15-14 by the time the buzzer.

The second quarter was belonged to Lakehead, guard Joseph Jones in particular. Jones spun and fired to start the period, regaining the lead for the Wolves for the first time since they were up 4-2 in the first.

It swung back and forth until Jones nailed back-to-back treys, giving Lakehead a 24-19 advantage, giving him eight of the 14 points he’d score in the afternoon tilt in the second quarter.

Lakehead pushed their lead to 32-23, but a free-throw from Kyle Watson and a bucket by Denny Dumas made it a six-point LU lead at the half.

Whyte scored a quick hoop off a turnover to start the second half and moments later Whyte did it again, putting UBC on top for good at 34-32.

The run continued; and continued; and continued.

For five minutes the Thunderbirds scored at will, until Greg Carter, who would later foul out, finally found the bottom of the net for the Wolves. By then it was too late, as UBC owned a commanding 47-34 lead.

UBC, at nationals for the eighth time in nine years, was up 57-43 after three and scored five straight to start the fourth, dashing any hopes of another late-game comeback by the Thunderwolves, making their first appearance at nationals since the disco heyday of 1977.

Blain LaBranche was the Thunderbirds top scorer, with 14. The Wolves will play in Saturday’s consolation final against Cape Breton, which fell 82-74 to Calgary on Friday’s Final 8 opener.

Leith Dunick

About the Author: Leith Dunick

A proud Nova Scotian who has called Thunder Bay home since 2002, Leith is Dougall Media's director of news, but still likes to tell your stories too. Wants his Expos back and to see Neil Young at least one more time. Twitter: @LeithDunick
Read more

push icon
Be the first to read breaking stories. Enable push notifications on your device. Disable anytime.
No thanks