Destiny, meet the Lakehead Thunderwolves men’s basketball team.
Just don’t get too familiar, says coach Scott Morrison, whose players still have plenty of work to do before patting themselves on the back.
If they were going to get a little cocky before the playoffs arrive, it might be hard to blame them.
After all, they roared back from a 10-point second-quarter deficit Saturday night to go on to complete a weekend sweep of the No. 7 Windsor Lancers (11-5) with a 77-66 win at a jam-packed C.J. Sanders Fieldhouse.
Using a three-guard set that kept the Lancers guessing all night long, while limiting the OUA’s second-leading scorer Isaac Kuon to just three points, the Thunderwolves (13-3) showed themselves worthy of being mentioned among the league’s top teams with the win.
And they also built themselves and comfortable four-point spread in the OUA West, with just four games left on the schedule.
Morrison just doesn’t want his troops getting too comfortable at this point.
“If we start thinking like that it will be evaporated before we know it. It’s a great opportunity. We earned the opportunity to decide our own fate, but at the same time we have to be cautious of that opportunity and make sure we don’t let anybody outwork us or out-focus us over the next three weeks,” Morrison said.
Guard Jamie Searle, who led the way with 20 points, five boards and seven assists, including a five-point run in the fourth that ran Lakehead’s lead to nine points midway through the quarter, said it was a slow start, but nothing they couldn’t overcome.
“We made sure we didn’t get down on ourselves. That’s one thing with this team. Everybody picks each other up. We started flat. We got frustrated. I know myself, I was down. Coach just kept us going. He brought us in at halftime and told us to get angry, not worry about refs, not worry about the other team, just go and play our game. We definitely did that tonight.”
The importance of taking two from the Lancers, a team that erased the Wolves from the OUA playoffs a year ago with a 21-point triumph, says a lot about the maturation process Lakehead’s squad has undergone in the past year.
Searle said it’s a statement to the rest of the league.
“It’s great. We know where we stand with the best teams in the league now. And we control our own destiny now. We don’t have to worry about who wins or who loses. We just have to keep winning and we’ll be in first,” the Belleville native said.
Searle added he and his teammates knew they were outmatched in the size department, and probably out-skilled at the same time.
They didn’t let that bother them, he said, sticking to Friday’s game plan of running the court and tiring the bigger Lancer players out.
“They’re a lot more talented on paper, everyone in the country would say that. But we just outworked them. We go seven, eight, nine, even 10 deep some nights. We’re not getting tired when they are and that’s usually what happens in the fourth quarter,” Searle said.
“We knew if it was a game in the fourth that we were going to pull away, and we did.”
It all started with a Ryan Thompson three at the buzzer that pulled the Wolves into a 34-34 deadlock at the half.
The two teams went back-and-forth to start the third, but Searle dumped a three-pointer two minutes in to give Lakehead its first lead at 39-38.
Moments later he did it again, and though Windsor would pull to within one minutes later when Enrico Diloreto, who led the Lancers with 22, drained a three, it was a close as they’d get the rest of the way.
Windsor, losers of four of its last six games, would later go on a 7-0 run, keyed by a Josh Collins three that brought them within one again. But once again the Wolves responded in a hurry.
Guard Ben Johnson hit a pair of shots late in the third that restored a four-point lead after three, and Lakehead began to pull away in the fourth, the dagger being a Thompson three-pointer, part of an 8-0 run that put it too far out of reach.
The Wolves hit the road next weekend for a pair against 7-9 Waterloo.