Men’s basketball team begins a crucial stretch
In what has been an up and down season for the Laurier men’s basketball team, they face a critical stretch with just seven games left on the schedule.
The Golden Hawks and Coach Serresse are looking to recreate the magic of last season, where they won 11 of their last 13 games, which led them to a deep run in the OUA playoffs.
After a great start to the 2020 campaign by winning the first two games in a dominant fashion against Waterloo and Windsor, Laurier headed into last week with a pivotal road matchup against their division rivals, the Guelph Gryphons.
Guelph was able to beat Laurier in the first matchup of the year, an 82-68 win, where many key players, including Ali Sow went down with injuries.
With the flip of the decade, Laurier became a much healthier team as key players Ali Sow, Matt Minutillo and Ntore Habimana returned.
Ali Sow averaged over 30 points in the first week back from holiday break, and the defense played strong, leading Laurier to back to back wins.
Heading into last weeks game against Guelph, the Golden Hawks held a two-point lead on the third spot in the OUA West division.
Per OUA rules, the top three teams in each division qualify for the playoffs.
Laurier had a chance to double their two point lead on a playoff spot, while Guelph was looking to beat Laurier for the second time, after winning back in mid-November.
A close game, saw the teams battle back and forth, trading buckets for most of the game.
With the game tied at 51 each heading into the fourth quarter, Laurier took charge by holding a five point lead three minutes into the final quarter.
However, in the final six minutes of the game, the Golden Hawks missed a slew of shots.
Guelph forward Malcolm Glanville led the Gryphons with 21 points including some crucial shots in the fourth.
Keenan Dowell also made a couple of big shots down the stretch, as Guelph went onto win 83-75.
Poor shooting and turnovers were the downfall for the Hawks last week.
Only 33% shooting from the field, combined with 17 turnovers, that resulted in 16 points for Guelph, hindered the Golden Hawks.
Ali Sow also had an off night as he shot 5-20 from the field and only made two threes on over 10 attempts.
Matt Minutillo led the team with 21 points on seven of ten shooting, including five three-point shots.
Minutillo has been a force for the Golden Hawks in 2020, as he has been hitting most of his shots from the field and playing smart defensively.
Coach Serresse praised Minutillo after the game on Wednesday.
“Matt is outstanding, he is a veteran guy who brings effort and IQ, we missed him dearly,” Coach Serresse said after the game.
“The first practice he was back, we understood exactly what we were missing, the little details that he can bring to the table that most others cant, are very important,” Serresse continued.
Coach Serresse has been much happier in the new year, as the team continues to get healthier.
He has openly admitted this season that the injuries to Sow, Habimana, Minutilo and other key parts of the team have made it near impossible for his teams to win games.
Although they stayed competitive, Coach Serresse’s team headed into the new year on a five game losing streak due to the lack of starpower and starters that were able to suit up for them.
“When we lose three or four starters, we are going to struggle. We do not yet have the luxury that some other programs have to survive injuries like that,” Coach Serresse said.
He continued to state that many programs, including the Gee-Gee’s who he worked with for many years as an assistant, have starters on the bench that can step up when needed, such as when players are injured.
He mentions that Laurier as a program does not have that talent yet, even though they are striving towards it.
In what is a very tight OUA West division, Laurier has seven games left and sits two points back of a playoff spot.
Luckily for Laurier, the schedule eases up as they have two home games against Algoma this weekend, before travelling to Oshawa to play the Ontario Tech Ridgebacks in Oshawa next week.
Those two teams have a combined total of three wins this season and Laurier will be looking to add three wins to their total over the next week and a half.
With 17 turnovers last week, Laurier sits in the bottom three of the OUA, giving away the ball on average nearly 17 times a game.
Only Nipissing and Laurentian have given up the ball more frequently.
Coach Serresse knows the importance of this stretch and the key to limit turnovers.
“We want to build off transition, early offence and ball movement, to limit our errors,” Coach Serresse said.
At this time last season, the Golden Hawks were hitting thier stride and playing some of their best basketball in the history of the school.
The coach and players certainly believe they can recreate that.
“Knock on wood, I hope we are able to make another run like last year,” Coach Serresse stated after the game.
Now that the team is almost fully healthy, Serresse is looking towards them making a run and is happy that there is nothing to point to as an excuse.
“Now it’s on us for the rest of the season, if we don’t win now, we can look at ourselves in the mirror without having an excuse.” Coach Serresse emphatically said.