THUNDER BAY – The Lakehead Thunderwolves took care of business this weeked – a top 10 berth can’t be far behind.
The Wolves held on Saturday night at the CJ Sanders Fieldhouse to edge the visiting York Lions 86-83 and took over top spot in the OUA West, upping their record to 7-1 with the victory.
It should be enough to vault 11th-ranked Lakehead into the U Sports top 10 on Tuesday, after No. 10 UNBC dropped a pair of games this weekend to fall to 6-2.
But it’s a game they almost gave away.
Up 80-69 with less than four minutes to play, the Wolves took their foot off the gas at the wrong time and almost wound up in overtime, when Haley Bowie’s potential game-tying, buzzer-beatng three-point attempt went in and out as time expired.
Lakehead guard Karissa Kajorinne, who scored 18 points in the game, said they’d probably play the final few minutes differently if they were given a do-over.
“It was a little sloppy. I’m a little disappointed with my decision-making down the stretch, but at least we figured out a way to close it and get the win in the end,” said Kajorinne, whose fourth and final three early in the fourth quarter gave the Thunderwolves a 76-67 lead with five minutes to play.
Guard Tiffany Reynolds said a win’s a win, but they need to clean things up before top-ranked Ryerson arrives in town next weekend.
“We were up, we had the lead 11 points, but I don’t know what happened. We kind of went downhill. But then coach called a timeout, we regrouped. Everybody reassured each other … and then we came out and worked just as hard as they did, maybe a little bit harder, and came out with the win,” said Reynolds, who collected 14 points and five rebounds, eight of her points coming in the fourth.
LU coach Jon Kreiner said he hopes they learned a valuable lesson.
“We don’t turn the ball over like this and we ran into a very tough, physical, scrappy, hard-working team,” Kreiner said. “This team has been playing tough ball all year.”
Lakehead committed 28 turnovers on the night, two fewer than the Lions, but about three times as many as Kreiner would like to see – and too many that belong in the unforced error category.
Looking past the mistakes, there’s a lot to like about where the Thunderwolves are sitting at this stage of the season.
“It would feel so good if we were in the top 10, even though the top 10 is just a number,” Reynolds said.
“We’re not top 10, but we can definitely bang and compete with top 10 teams. It’s respect from other coaches and teams, but we go out there and if we play our game we’ll climb that ladder and we’ll get the respect we deserve.”
The Wolves battled back from an early 14-4 deficit to lead 23-22 at the half, Tianna Warwick-Dawkins edging LU in front at the buzzer. She’d later leave the game after her head hit hard on the floor following a collision with York’s Megan MacLeod, but said afterward she was OK.
There were six lead-changes in the second quarter, which saw Lakehead lead 39-38 at the half. They stretched their advantage to four after three.
Leashja Grant led all scorers with 29, also grabbing 11 boards, the fifth double-double of the season for the OUA’s leading scorer and rebounder.
Katrina Collins, with 19, was one of three Lions players in double digits. MacLeod had 15 and Lauren Golding had 14.