Courtesy of host organizing committee (Gianluca Nesci)
March 8, 2013, Ottawa (CIS) – At long last, the Lakehead University Thunderwolves are moving on to the CIS men’s basketball semifinals.
After falling at the national quarter-final hurdle in each of the past three seasons, the T-Wolves finally got over the hump Friday afternoon at Scotiabank Place.
Championship website: http://english.cis-sic.ca/championships/mbkb/index
In a thrilling, back-and-forth contest, the seventh-seeded OUA bronze medallists pulled away in the fourth quarter and claimed a 74-61 upset victory over the second-ranked Cape Breton University Capers, the AUS champions, in the opening game of the Final Eight tournament.
With six players in their final year of eligibility, this was the last chance to make a run at a CIS championship for much of the current Lakehead roster.
“I didn’t want them to retire with that monkey on their back of never getting out of this first round, so I’m happy for those guys,” Thunderwolves head coach Scott Morrison said after the game. “Now they can relax and try and get a couple more upsets this weekend.”
One of those players is fifth-year guard Ben Johnson, who poured in a game-high 25 points to lead his team to the victory. He also collected player of the game honours for Lakehead.
The way he started the game, it was clear the Pictou, N.S., native had no intention of going out on a losing note. Johnson nailed two three-pointers early in the contest, and it set the tone for the rest of his afternoon, as he would go on to hit seven shots from beyond the arc.
“I can’t say enough about Ben,” Morrison said. “I was really excited that he came out and played that well. He’s a great kid, he’s been battling his whole career and what a game he had today.”
At the other end of the court, the Thunderwolves vaunted defense – led by reigning two-time CIS defensive player of the year Greg Carter – did an excellent job shutting down a Capers team that came into the tournament scoring 86.5 points per game.
Heading into the game, all eyes were on the impending showdown between Capers star James Dorsey, the two-time AUS MVP, and Carter.
The matchup didn’t disappoint.
While Dorsey did manage to find some success in the second half, it was Carter who came out on top.
“I thought Greg was tremendously physical and chased [Dorsey] all over the floor and did a great job making things difficult for him,” Capers head coach Matt Skinn said.
The Ottawa native used his aggressive defense to disrupt the CIS first team all-star, who came into the contest as the top scorer at the tournament, having averaged 20.8 points per game during the regular season.
Dorsey finished the game with only 12 points on 4-of-17 shooting, and sat out much of the second quarter after picking up three fouls early on – two of which were charges drawn by Carter.
“I took that matchup pretty personal,” Carter said. “That was our main game plan to try and contain him, make other guys be scorers and chase him around pretty much.”
Morrison said he planned to have different players guard Dorsey before the game, but said his plan changed once he saw how well Carter was containing the explosive scorer.
Despite Dorsey’s struggles, the contest was evenly poised throughout. Heading into the fourth and final frame tied at 48 apiece, the Thunderwolves veteran presence came to the fore.
While the second-seeded Capers seemed overwhelmed by the occasion, Lakehead had no such problems. Led by Johnson – who once again opened the quarter with two straight three’s – the Thunderwolves outscored the Capers 26-13 to come away with the double-digit victory.
“By the time the fourth quarter came around they were able to get into the paint and kick it out to the shooters,” Skinn said. “We did some things defensively that we shouldn’t have, and they definitely capitalized.”
Both teams will be back in action Saturday.
The Capers play at 12 p.m. in the first consolation game, while the Thunderwolves will hit the court at 5:30 p.m. for the opening semifinal against the winner of the game between No. 6 McGill and the No. 3 Ottawa, live on The Score Television Network and www.CIS-SIC.tv.
It will mark Lakehead’s third-ever appearance in the national semis after trips to the CIS Final Four in 1977 and 1973.
Lakehead: 15-14-19-26: 74
Cape Breton: 12-21-15-13: 61
Boxscore: Stats LAK-CBU