WATERLOO, Ont. – The Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks men's basketball team put together their best performance of the season on Wednesday night as they won their OUA First Round playoff game against the McMaster Marauders 102-76 at the Athletic Complex.
Entering the game, Laurier, the fourth seed in the OUA West division, faced several questions coming into their first home playoff game since 2014. How would they be able to slow down a team that had won eight of their past nine games and scored 90 points per game over the past month? Would their lack of postseason experience hurt them at all?
The Hawks answered those questions and many more Wednesday evening in front of a pumped-up crowd at the newly re-opened Laurier Athletic Complex as they set a new team record for points scored in a playoff game en route to their first playoff win since 2015.
Head Coach Justin Serresse knew that a fast start would be extremely important to get the momentum and confidence on their side and the Hawks were able to do just that. Fueled by a few consecutive stops on the defensive end, a three-pointer by Ali Sow (Ottawa, Ont.) followed by an and-one from Joseph Fo (Markham, Ont.) and a layup from Ben Stevens (Halifax, N.S.) had the purple and gold up 17-7 midway through the first.
They were off to the races from there.
The key to the Hawks being able to break 100 points on offence Wednesday was ball movement. While the dynamic duo of Sow and Tevaun Kokko (Markham, Ont.) were able to put up big scoring numbers, combining for 45 points, they both did a superb job at facilitating and finding their open teammates as well.
As a team, the Hawks had an elite-level 27 assists, to go along with just 11 turnovers.
Serresse told his players pre-game "Play with confidence. I am not going to play a guy who isn't looking to shoot. I am not playing a guy who isn't going to be aggressive."
The team responded with offensive contributions up and down the bench. Fo, Matt Minutillo (Brantford, Ont.), and Kemel Archer (Brampton, Ont.) gave the Hawks five players scoring in double figures.
The Laurier bench was dominant against the visitors, outscoring McMaster's bench 47-13.
Even with the offensive outburst, it was critical that the purple and gold did not lose focus on the defensive end. Up 11 points heading to the fourth, the Hawks suffocated the Marauders' offence, only allowing 11 points in the final quarter and creating a lot of frustration for the visitors as their season continued to slip further and further away.
Archer led the Hawks with 14 boards as Laurier out-rebounded McMaster 49-35. Kokko had four steals to go along with his game-high 26 points.
Advancing to the OUA Quarter-Finals, the Hawks will travel to St. Catharines Saturday for a matchup with the U SPORTS No. 3 Brock Badgers. Serresse expects a physical game and a lively crowd and believes the key for his team will be to weather the storm in the first couple minutes before settling into their rhythm.
Tip is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. on February 24 at the Bob Davis Gymnasium. The game will be broadcast live on OUA.tv.
Source: Laurier Golden Hawks