Season of hope fizzles
The writing was on the wall and the team could see it a full court away.
The Wilfrid Laurier men’s basketball team, probably the greatest of its kind ever assembled at the school had fallen in the first round of the Ontario University Athletics’ (OUA) playoffs.
“It started probably two weeks ago,” a soft-spoken turned inaudible Kale Harrison said after the 61-58 loss to Guelph on Wednesday.
The fifth-year wing and 2011 president’s trophy award-winner couldn’t help pull his squad out of the sinking quicksand it found itself in for the past few games.
Winning only one game out of four dating back to Feb. 4, the struggling Hawks let a 10-point lead at halftime slip between their fingers against the Gryphons, and the Guelph team, losers of their past eight straight, mounted the unlikeliest of comebacks.
“The bottom line is you’ve got to come out and play every game with the people you have and … we had a number of people who didn’t step up,” said Laurier head coach Peter Campbell.
“There isn’t a guy who played tonight that didn’t do something that if they’d done it one step better than maybe we would have survived that scare.”
Harrison, the all-time third-ranked OUA points leader shot 7-24 and missed on all five of his three-point attempts.
Matt Buckley collected just six points and Kyle Enright garnered 10.
Conor Meschino was the lone bright spot on the sagging Hawks as he shot 8-16, collected 11 rebounds and notched 16 points.
But the team couldn’t overcome the absences of Patrick Donnelly (concussion) and Maxwell Allin, who left the team the very day of the contest with flu-like symptoms.
Without Allin, who had been having his best season ever, averaging 15.1 points/game, the squad looked lost and dazed by the end of the match.
“Up until about two weeks ago, we had been playing like a national championship-contending basketball team, then we ran into a road block; got some injuries, and a lot of what we thought we could do was built on the depth we had,” said Campbell.
“We were a good team with a lot of depth, but once you took the depth away, the pressure got too great for some guys I think.”
The team had been missing Jamar Forde and Sharif Wanas for extended periods of time, but even with sustained injuries, Laurier knew they had gathered something special this year.
“It’s a tremendously disappointing finish to a season that we thought had all kinds of potential,” said Campbell.
“We were missing parts today but that’s no excuse,” said an almost inconsolable Buckley who also played his last game in a Golden Hawk uniform.
“Making the team in the first place was beyond my wildest dreams,” said the kinesiology major. “I never got recruited anywhere [when I came here].”
The team graduates Buckley, Harrison, Meschino and Matt Donnelly.
Travis Berry and Wanas also have the option to move on as they finish their fourth year in 2012.