THUNDER BAY – Leashja Grant is the perfect antidote to a Ryerson Rams hangover.
A night after stunning the No. 2 team in the country, the No. 10 Lakehead Thunderwolves hosted a Toronto Varsity Blues squad primed for an upset of their own.
But Grant, the leading scorer in the OUA, was having none of it.
The Bahamian import poured in 30 points, the third time she’s crossed the threshold since Nov. 17, to lead the Wolves to an 84-71 victory, a game they led by as much as 19 in the third quarter, only to have Toronto rally back and close the gap to as little as three in the fourth.
Grant admitted the Thunderwolves weren’t at their best, especially in the early stages of the C.J. Sanders Fieldhouse contest.
“You know what, I’d be lying if I didn’t say so,” asked if the Wolves had exhausted their effort tanks in Friday’s 72-63 win over the Rams.
“I find it’s always hard to play the second game, especially against tough teams. Toronto was a tough team, so it was really hard to bounce back and have that same energy as we did against Ryerson,” said Grant who broke open an eight-point halftime lead, scoring 11 points in the first four minutes of the third to give LU a 51-37 lead at the time, part of a 14-2 run to start the second half.
“We actually started paying attention to what coach wanted us to do. After the first half of yelling at us to try to get the ball inside, we finally figured it out coming out of halftime.”
Grant’s stat line included 14 rebounds, six assists and two steals, but by no means was she the only Lakehead player to make an impact.
Fifth-year guard Karissa Kajorinne was at it again, finishing with 13 points, five assists and an equal number of boards, a fantastic encore following Friday night’s 26-point effort.
And Nikki Ylagan, the Thunderwolves second-leading scorer, found her touch at the ideal moment, dropping a pair of key three-pointers in a fourth quarter that saw the Varsity Blues all but erase Lakehead’s 61-48 lead through 30 minutes, cutting it to three on two separate occasions in the final three minutes of regulation.
“We really struggled. We got a little bit frustrated. They’ve got a couple of good weapons in Keyira Parkes and a couple of other (players),” said LU coach Jon Kreiner.
“But no excuses, Toronto played really well tonight and we didn’t have as much energy as them and it’s very hard playing the (OUA) East back-to-back games, especially when you have to put out so much energy the game before.”
Parkes led the Varsity Blues, who led 19-18 after one quarter, with 19 points, including 12 in the second half, but hit just one of eight three-point attempts, Toronto good on just 6-of-31 from beyond the arc.
Ylagan, with 11, and Lily Gruber-Schulz, who chipped in 10, also hit double digits for the division-leading, Thunderwolves.
Lakehead (9-1) is back in OUA action on Jan. 4 at Guelph (4-5) and return home the following weekend for a pair against Windsor (6-5).