Laurier men’s basketball best Guelph in overtime
The Guelph Gryphons visited the Laurier men’s basketball team for the second meeting of the regular season. The teams played under a week prior, where Laurier held on 92-91 for the victory.
In the 2021-2022 season, the Highway 7 rivalry was split with each team taking a win in rather close games. The first meeting this season saw late game theatrics in a last second sinked jumper by Jahmyah Brown Jeffers. Guelph intended on breaking their winless start to the season, and were on track to do so for the majority of the game, but the Hawks put on another thrilling performance.
Senior Justin Malnerich kicked off the game draining a three, one of his two in the quarter, and would remain steady leading Laurier in points with eight. Another senior, Majok Deng, dominated on defense tallying two steals and two rebounds, coming off a season high seven rebounds against Guelph in their first season meeting. While Guelph struggled in the first quarter recording well below 50% shooting from the field, and only 28% from three point range, Laurier excelled at 50% in both three pointers and field goals, and 67% production from the free throw line. The first frame ended 23-17 for the Hawks.
The game took a turn in the second quarter where the Hawks shooting percentages dropped dramatically and Guelph’s increased. Coach Justin Serresse “was just trying to find a way to score … How the hell are we going to score? Because at one point I was not too sure how,” as Guelph hustled to open the second going on an 8-1 run, taking the lead. The game remained highly contested, the scores tying five times and both teams exchanging the lead four times.
As the match continued, the faithful home crowd backed their Hawks creating electric energy in the building allowing the players to feed off their enthusiasm. Ethan Passley commented on his ability to lock in on the play, saying “I’m a very calm person. Nothing fazes me [in] big moments like that.”
Going into the half, the game was tied at 40 as Guelph fought to keep level, trying to mimic the game on November 11 where both teams ended each quarter neck and neck, differing by only a handful of points. Where the Hawks lacked in consistent free throw shooting that game, the Gryphons showed steady but could not match the Hawks three point shooting percentage, shooting 15% less going 10 for 29.
The Hawks continued to struggle offensively, totalling 17 points in the third quarter versus 24 points put up by Guelph. Passley’s offensive effort accounted for eight of the Hawks points in the frame, going 100% from the line and field. Jeffers and Taye Donald recorded two defensive rebounds each, defending the rim aggressively. Guelph’s momentum helped them come out of the third ahead 64-57.
Guelph opened the fourth quarter strong going on a 6-0 run in the first minute. As the energy increased from the crowd, the Hawks went on an 11-0 run, confining Guelph to 75 points for over two minutes. The lead changed six times in the dying moments of the game. Big time center Ben Stevens took charge along with Passley, Jeffers, and Donald, combining for 28 points and six rebounds. The Hawks reignited their three point shooting which proved to be a factor in extending the game into overtime.
With two seconds remaining, Guelph leading by three, Passley came up clutch draining his second distance shot of the game evening the score at 89.
Serresse credited the crowd’s energy in assisting the Hawks, saying, “We came up strong. And then I thought the energy picked up. I mean from the sidelines, you can’t ask for anything better … that type of energy is good … that [helped] us down the stretch when we made some key baskets.”
“We feed off [the energy] … especially at home and all the fans here we love, especially the football guys. They always come out and show great support.” Stevens said.
The overtime frame ended with a thunderous dunk from Stevens to hold on to the victory, 102-96.
Despite the outcome, Serresse knows the team can do better to ensure avoiding late game theatrics. “It’s the lack of discipline, execution of offense and defense, rushing some shots, getting out of position, reaching and fouling … We talked about it the whole week.” He acknowledged the youth factor of the team, and hopes the players will gain experience and maturity as the season progresses.