Sow and Taylor lead Golden Hawks to sixth straight victory after sweeping the Mustangs
The Laurier Golden Hawks men’s basketball team continued their impressive start to the 2022 season, sweeping the rival Western Mustangs in two games this past week. Spearheaded by dominant performances from the backcourt duo of Romello Taylor and Ali Sow, the Golden Hawks won their sixth straight game on Saturday to improve their record to 8-4 after starting their season with two wins in their first six games.
“This one feels good,” Coach Justin Serresse said after the first victory over Western in London last Wednesday. Serresse and his team were pleased to sweep the Mustangs and beat Western at Alumni Hall in London, avenging a loss two years ago, when their season came to an end in a heartbreaking 104-103 overtime loss in the semi-final.
The Golden Hawks have not lost in over three months, since a home loss against the Windsor Lancers on Nov. 27. While the Christmas break and OUA January pause has a certain impact on that stat, Laurier has stepped up their game on both sides of the ball and put the province on notice, winning in a variety of ways over this six-game undefeated run.
“I think we’re playing up to our standards,” Serresse said, reminding his team to take it “one game at a time,” limiting mistakes and continuing to play their type of composed and unselfish type of basketball.
The Golden Hawks now sit tied for second place in the OUA west division with McMaster as they set their sights towards a first-round bye in the Wilson Cup playoffs which begin in just under two weeks. The top six seeds in both the east and west division will make the playoffs, while the top two seeds will earn a first-round bye to the quarter-finals. Barring a major collapse, Coach Serresse and his team will make the post-season for a fifth consecutive season, having not missed under his tenure. The Golden Hawks can clinch a playoff berth with a win this Wednesday against Guelph.
Laurier swept two games against Algoma in a rather dominant fashion when the season restarted in mid-February. Laurier then defeated Waterloo and Western in four hard-fought games, breaking a three-game losing streak to Western and winning their seventh straight contest in the Battle of Waterloo.
The 95-point output and 15-point win on Saturday afternoon, was Laurier’s third-highest point total this season. Guards, Ali Sow and Romello Taylor continued their dominant seasons shining on Saturday, combining for 61 points and leading Laurier to victory as they have done all season long.
Sow scored a season-high 36 points on Wednesday against Western – his sixth 30-point game this season – as he led an impressive Laurier comeback on the road. Sow scored 17 points in the second to cut into the Western lead and closed out the victory with 12 of the team’s 28 points in the fourth quarter.
As one of the best university guards in the country, Ali Sow may be putting forth the best season of his remarkable four-year career at Laurier. The former All-Canadian, two-time OUA all-star and 2019 Laurier athlete of the year is at the top of nearly all offensive categories in the OUA and nationally across Canada.
Sow is averaging 25.6 points per game this year while shooting over 45 per cent. No one in Ontario has scored more points than Sow this year, with 308 in 11 contests. The future Laurier Hall of Famer has also averaged over five assists and rebounds per game this season – career-highs – while sitting second in the OUA in points per game, minutes per game, assists per game, and free throws made per game. His minute, point and assists totals rank top five in USPORTS, as Sow was named Laurier athlete of the week for the 14th time this past week.
While many Golden Hawk fans have become accustomed to Sow dominating in the purple and gold, his back-court partner, Taylor, has taken a massive step forward and is enjoying a career year this season.
Taylor has doubled his average from 2020, now averaging 16 points per game on 46% shooting and nearly four rebounds and four assists. In his fourth year with the team, the Driftwood, Ontario native has continued to improve throughout the season and recorded his first career 30-point game on Saturday against Western – making a career-high 13 field goals in 40 minutes of play.
Taylor is averaging over 18 points per game during the six-game win streak, having recorded four or more rebounds in every game, and three games with four steals, displaying his versatility and all-around skill set.
“I think Romello is playing with a lot more confidence right now, he’s so crucial to our team,” Coach Serresse said. “I’m very happy and proud of him, he’s unleashing is potential right in front of us,” he continued.
Both Sow and Taylor lead the team in points, assists, free throws and steals. What might be the best backcourt duo in Canada, Sow and Taylor have accounted for nearly half of the team’s scoring output this year – 500 of the team’s 1018 points. The two have made 109 of the team’s 157 free throws as well.
While Sow and Taylor have carried the load for the team, Laurier has received important contributions from many of their role players such as Majok Deng, Ben Stevens, KJ Massela and Benhur Gebrekidan. Deng had a game-winning dunk over Western in the dying seconds last Wednesday, while Stevens leads the team in rebounds.
Massela is the team’s third-highest scorer while playing remarkable on the defensive end, while Gebrekidan has become a deep shot specialist, ranking top five in the OUA with over 30 made three-pointers.
Laurier has improved immensely on the defensive side and have limited their mistakes during the six-game stretch. The Golden Hawks are top three in the league in turnovers given up and have the fourth-best rebounding margin in the conference. After allowing 89 points in four of their first six games, the Golden Hawks have not allowed more than 81 in their last six.
Laurier also ranks near the top of the offensive statistics, top ten in the country in points per game and field goals made while ranking first in the OUA, averaging over nine three-pointers per game. Their balanced play hopes to earn Laurier a national ranking, with the Wilson Cup set to tip-off later this month, while Serresse remains committed to his goal of reaching the national championship in Acadia next month. Serresse has been steadfast on bringing a trophy to Laurier since being named the youngest coach in the country six years ago.
Laurier will hope to extend their six-game win streak and remain hot in their final four games of the season. They will return to the court this Wednesday with a road matchup against the 3-7 Guelph Gryphons, before playing the home fixture against Guelph on Friday at the Athletic Complex. Laurier has won five consecutive road games, having not lost away from home since opening night on Nov. 3rd.
Laurier will then close out their season with two pivotal games next week against McMaster, including senior’s night next Wednesday at the AC.