Men’s Basketball lose semi-finals in heartbreaking fashion
Coach Justin Serresse and the Laurier Golden Hawks men’s basketball team came up just short of the USPORTS Nationals once again after a heartbreaking loss to the Western Mustangs in the OUA Semi-Finals.
In a memorable game at Alumni Hall in London last week, the Golden Hawks and eigth ranked, Western Mustangs put on an absolute show.
The end result saw the Mustangs advance on a game winning three-pointer by local Kitchener native Nikola Farkic.
Both the Mustangs and Hawks’ star players battled it out back and forth for four quarters and that still did not decide a winner from either side, as the game was sent to overtime.
In a game that saw Laurier leading with five seconds left in regulation and leading with four seconds left in overtime, the Mustangs made some remarkable shots and Laurier suffered a crushing 104-103 loss.
One of the games of the basketball year saw excellent efforts on both sides of the court as a chance to advance to the Wilson Cup Finals and play the top team in the country, the Carleton Ravens was at stake.
The winner would also receive an automatic bid to the National Championships which take place in Ottawa over this upcoming weekend, a goal that Justin Serresse had hoped to achieve this year.
“When I first took this job four years ago, I set out a plan and told my guys that we would be in the final four of OUA’s in third year, which I was so proud, we did last year,” Coach Serresse said.
“I also told them that in four years we would be at nationals, and we were so close, that’s why this one is going to take a while to get over,” Coach Serresse added after the game.
Serresse is right, as the Golden Hawks were seconds away from advancing.
How close they were, as Laurier looked like they were destined to move through to the OUA finals at several points of the fourth quarter and overtime.
However it was two incredible threes, that sunk the hopes of Justin Serresse and the Laurier faithful who travelled so well to London.
Laurier fought back hard in the electric atmosphere on Wednesday night as they began the game trailing Western for the majority of the first half.
Stellar post play by Kemel Archer and another clutch three-pointer by Adnan Begovic, who has been great from long distance this postseason, had tied the game up as the teams were heading into halftime.
After a close game saw both teams take leads at points in the third and fourth quarter, Ali Sow led the way once again, as he so often does for the Golden Hawks.
Sow took over, as the two-time OUA All-Star looked unstoppable in the second half, pouring in a game high 41 points on the night.
Sow was able to keep the Golden Hawks close with the Mustangs, even at times it looked like Western was going to be able to pull away.
A three by Nashon Hurst, who Coach Serresse has trusted down the stretch, had given Laurier the three-point lead with ten seconds left.
That was until Western turned to Eriq Jenkins with nearly no time left on the clock, who hit the game tying three and sent the game to overtime.
In the overtime frame, Sow continued his dominance and made one of the biggest shots of his Laurier career.
Sinking one of his six three pointers on the night, this one was clutch, as with 38 seconds left in the overtime quarter, Sow’s three put Laurier up 103-101.
On the final possession, the Mustangs had the ball with 20 seconds left and down by two points.
Kemel Archer blocked the initial Mustang shot, but the ball went out of bounds giving Western one last chance with four seconds left to tie or win the game.
Veteran fourth-year guard who played his junior basketball in Waterloo, Nikola Farkic hit a game-winning three with just two seconds left on the clock, to break the hearts of the Laurier Golden Hawks players, who felt as if this was their year.
With the win, the Mustangs advanced to the Wilson Cup Finals where they eventually lost to the Carleton Ravens , the Ravens team who has now won their 12th OUA title in the past 18 years.
The Mustangs season is not over as they will play in the USPORTS final eight tournament this upcoming weekend, hoping to secure a top national seeding.
For Coach Serresse and the Laurier players, it was a tough one to swallow as the game and win was in their fingertips with seconds left in the fourth quarter and in overtime.
The clutch shooting by the Mustangs blew the roof off of Alumni Hall on Wednesday night, and while the loss will be tough for the players, Justin Serresse offered high praise for the energetic atmosphere that was in the arena.
“It was a game that everybody wants to play in or be a part of, the atmosphere was a ten out of ten and if you bought a ticket, it was worth every penny,” Coach Serresse said of the crowd on Wednesday night.
“I want to take a moment to appreciate the football team, athletic director, our whole department and the rest of the fans who supported us all year and made the trip with us to London, it was fantastic to see,” Serresse added.
In terms of the game itself, Coach Serresse found it hard to find words after the game, as he said the focus post-game was on the season, rather then the semi-final.
“It’s been hard to swallow, it’s been a week now and I still haven’t really watched any basketball, I believed in our team and the plan that I set out and losing a game like this is tough,” Coach Serresse said.
“I didn’t have much to tell the guys, we just reflected on the season and didn’t talk about the game too much,” he said.
“We were also showing some appreciation to our fifth-year guys Kemel (Archer) and Matt (Minutillo),” Serresse added.
For Archer and Minutillo they have played their last games in the purple and gold but have left a profound legacy on the school and with Coach Justin Serresse, who has always spoken highly of the two.
After two crushing semi-final losses in the past two seasons, the Hawks will now turn their focus to the offseason, one that Serresse has said won’t be as eventful as last year.
Last year, the Laurier basketball program travelled to France, while Coach Serresse and Ali Sow played in Italy for Canada.
Coach Serresse says that they shouldn’t be expecting a big offseason trip this year and will rather stay local.
“We will most likely save money this year, and plan a bigger trip for next year. For this offseason we may travel local, maybe Quebec,” Coach Serresse said.
In terms of his plans this offseason he said that he has been in touch with a lot of great recruits and he will be travelling over the next few weeks to scout out the top junior talent.
“I’ll be travelling to Ottawa on Thursday and then will be in Ryerson on the weekend, with some more trips planned in the United States. It will be a busy summer with recruiting and player development but I’m looking forward to it,” Coach Serresse said.
While undoubtedly the loss is a disappointment, Laurier has reached new heights under Coach Justin Serresse in the past few years.
Although they have’nt reached his ultimate goal of nationals, the program continues to improve, and look ahead to the offseason hoping to achieve that goal next year!