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One shot for Wolves men’s basketball team

Andrew Hackner likes the idea of a one-and-done threat facing the Lakehead Thunderwolves men’s basketball team on Saturday.

Andrew Hackner likes the idea of a one-and-done threat facing the Lakehead Thunderwolves men’s basketball team on Saturday.

The Wolves, who slipped into second place in the OUA West on the final weekend of the regular season, awaiting the winner of Wednesday’s McMaster-Waterloo quarterfinal. Hackner said the win-or-you’re out format is a familiar one to basketball fans and he wouldn’t have it any other way.

"I think our league is based kind of like how March Madness is in the NCAA. It’s one loss and you’re gone," said Hackner, who averaged 6.3 points and 3.6 boards as a fourth-year forward.

"Our league is very close. On any given night any team in the West can beat any team in the country. It doesn’t bother me much. We’ll get that one win. That doesn’t bother me right now."

That one win is important for another reason – keeping the championship dream alive. The OUA gets three berths at nationals this year. Carleton gets an automatic berth as the tournament host, with the other spots going to the champions of the East and West divisions.

Should Carleton win the East – and at 20-2 it’s a high probability – the losers of the conference finals will play off for the third and final berth.

"It does put a lot of pressure on us, but it just makes us hungrier and I guarantee we’re going to play harder than we ever have," said Hackner, a Thunder Bay native whose father Al is a two-time world curling champion.

Hosting a home playoff is vindication for LU coach Scott Morrison, who has suffered through some lean times pacing the sidelines. Before the 2009-10 season, under his tutelage the Wolves had a woeful 38-94 record, including a horrendous 1-21 affair in 2006-07, with star forward Kiraan Posey sitting out for academic reasons.

This team, which Morrison actually thought wouldn’t start winning big until next season, isn’t focused around a single player, but rather a mixture of parts and plenty of depth. It led to a 17-5 showing and a huge sigh of relief from the Prince Edward Island native for his first winning season with the Wolves.

"It’s not the easiest place to recruit here, and it’s not the easiest place to build a basketball program," Morrison said on Monday. "It’s definitely a lot of patience and understanding that it’s not going to come overnight and (knowing) that we could keep bringing in good guys and characters, eventually we’d have a good roster that could compete."

Morrison said the no-true-star formula he’s used to build this year’s squad isn’t a tried-and-tested one, but he’s convinced it has its place at the Canadian Interuniversity Sport level and that a mixture of Jamie Searle, Yoosrie Sahlia, Greg Carter and Joseph Jones is enough to take his No. 6-ranked team deep into the postseason, possibly all the way to Ottawa.

"I’d like to think so. Definitely during the regular season I think our balanced attack makes it tougher to scout us. When we had a guy like Kiraan and kind of a lesser supporting cast, it was easy to shut him down and get a step on us. But now you can’t really choose a guy to shut down. In the playoffs I think it can work, but we’re going to need a couple of guys to step up," Morrison said.

The Wolves will tip-off Saturday night at the Thunderdome at 7 p.m.

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
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