THUNDER BAY – There’s nothing like going out in style.
By no means is either hometown favourite Karissa Kajorinne or Bahamian import Leashja Grant done. Not yet anyway, with the OUA women’s basketball playoffs set to open this week, with the No. 8 Lakehead Thunderwolves a top contender with as good a shot as anyone to make it to nationals.
But both players put on a show on Saturday night, their friends and family on hand to celebrate their short LU careers on senior’s night.
Kajorinne tied a team record with nine three-pointers and finished with 32 points and Grant, the leading scorer and rebounder in the OUA – not to mention the reigning most valuable player – dropped 18 points and hauled in 17 rebounds and recorded her 18th double-double of the 2018-19 campaign as Lakehead downed the Brock Badgers 98-65 at the C.J. Sanders Fieldhouse.
“Everyone just said, you know, it’s your final year, just shoot your shots and every time I had a good look, I just shot it,” said Kajorinne, the team’s third-leading scorer in what will be her only season with the Wolves as the fifth-year transfer has run out of eligibility.
“I guess this feels better than not playing well, so it was good,” she joked. “But it was a great team win all around. Anyone from our first player to our 12th or 13th person did awesome tonight.”
Kajorinne was on fire in the opening half, burying seven of her nine from behind the arc as the Wolves built an early lead and just kept going.
It was the opposite of Friday’s 37-point win over the same Badgers squad, a game which saw 10 lead changes in the opening half before LU pulled away, building an 18-point lead by halftime.
Grant was her usual dominant self, adding four assists and two steals to her nightly resume, her father in the stands visiting from the Bahamas for her regular-season swan song.
“It feels amazing, it’s was good that he could actually come and watch me and see his big girl perform, so it was a blessing,” said Grant.
“I’m just really sad that it all had to come to an end so quick. Two years has gone by so quick and life after this begins.”
The game was a mostly meaningless contest, neither the Wolves nor the Badgers able to move up or down in the OUA West standings.
But it was chance to pay tribute to two of his best players all season long.
“The girls today in their shoot were joking, saying that nobody’s allowed to shoot besides Leashja and Karissa,” said coach Jon Kreiner, his team improving to 20-4 with the win.
“That almost happened that way. But the two of them led the way tonight and Karissa was absolutely on fire.”
The ease of the victory allowed Kreiner to give his bench a little more court time, resting his starters for a likely conference semifinal matchup against the Windsor Lancers, a team the Wolves split their season series with.
The bench responded.
Haligonian Julia Dunbar collected nine points in eight minutes, while Charlotte Clifford and Sofia Lluch collected six points apiece.
Former OUA all-rookie and second-team all-star Melissa Tatti led the Badgers with 16. Brock will host Guelph in one quarterfinal, while Windsor takes on Laurier in the other. The Wolves, by virtue of their second-place finish, earned a first-round bye and will host a to-be-determined opponent on Saturday at 7 p.m. in the second round.