We can play with the best

HAMILTON, Ont. – On Friday night the Laurier men’s basketball team was eliminated from the provincial playoffs one game short of a berth at nationals. But the way they lost the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) semifinal is, if anything, a cause for optimism.

The Hawks gave the undefeated, number-one nationally ranked Carleton Ravens all they could handle, leading for most of the game — even dominating it at times — only to be sunk by a fourth quarter in which they were out-scored 23-11 and fell 83-76.

“It just proves that we can play with the best,” said fourth-year Kale Harrison. “Now we know that we played with them twice so next year, we know we can beat them.”

The game Harrison was alluding to is an 88-80 Hawks loss at the hands of the Ravens on Nov. 12, which marked the first time all season that an opponent came within 10 points of the nation’s top team. The only other time the Ravens beat their opponents by less than 10 was Friday night against those same Hawks.

To give a little more perspective, coming into the OUA semifinals the last time Carleton lost a game was the 2010 national championship game. And for three quarters of Friday’s game, it looked as though the Hawks were going to break that streak.

“We played unbelievably well for three quarters,” said Harrison. “At the end our inexperience showed and their experience came through. They’ve probably played in 20 big games like that and this was our first so hopefully we can learn from it.”

Harrison, the Hawks’ leading scorer all season, once again led the purple in gold in scoring with 26 points, 21 of which came in the first half. The combination of OUA East player of the year Phil Scrubb’s defence and some less than favourable calls from the officials saw Harrison virtually shut down after half time.

“[Harrison] didn’t get any calls,” said Laurier head coach Peter Campbell. “And I don’t understand that. He’s a great kid, he doesn’t say much to anybody, he plays hard and the referees don’t seem to respect his game.”

Despite the Ravens keying on Harrison, the Hawks managed to dominate the third quarter, at one point leading by 12. However, according to veteran Matt Buckley, one simple thing proved the difference at crunch time.

“Poise,” he said. “They don’t panic when they get down and they showed that tonight.”

Though the result was obviously not what they were looking for, their performance against the powerhouse Ravens showed how far the Hawks have come this season. And with fourth-years Harrison, Buckley, Connor Meschino and Matt Donnelly all returning, the team is excited for next season.

“This is the best basketball team I’ve coached at Laurier in the 11 years I’ve been here,” said Campbell. “We’re in [the semifinals] and we’re starting two freshmen and a second-year, so the future looks good.”