What the Hawks need to be successful successful in the playoffs
It would be extremely difficult to describe the Wilfrid Laurier University men’s basketball team’s season in one word.
There have been times when the team has shone — like their five-game win streak early in the second semester — and there have been times when the team has slumped — like the five game losing streak that preceded that very winning streak.
The Golden Hawks have won and lost offensive shootouts — winning 106-92 against Bishop’s, and losing 106-89 against Laurentian — and they have won and lost defensive struggles — winning 62-52 against Algoma and losing 73-69 against Brock.
They have faced long road trips to Bishop’s, Concordia and Ottawa, and played more than a month’s worth of home games in venues other than Laurier’s athletic complex, their home gym having been damaged in a flood.
The Golden Hawks have persevered through a season of ups and downs, a season too interesting to warrant summation with a single word.
Instead, the season should be described by what the team has done and what the team has left to do.
When asked about the first semester’s struggles, second-year guard Tevaun Kokko said: “I think because we’re a young team — I think [we have] eight rookies — a lot of it is just getting to know each other, understanding [each other] on the court, getting to trust each other.
“I think in the second semester we’ve built that trust and that belief in each other,” Kokko said.
Although the Golden Hawks have a winning record this semester, having won six of their last 10 games, the road is not without its bumps.
The Hawks were recently in the midst of a three-game losing streak, which started with a close loss of 73-69 against the number two ranked team in the country, the Brock Badgers.
Speaking about the Brock and Western games — both of which occurred during the slide —
“It’s one game at a time and when that game is over that’s it. Just have that urgency about it. We can make a deep playoff run if we’re all locked in.”
Kokko said: “The Brock game, we were playing the number two team, but I think, even though at one point we were up by four, there were a few mental lapses that didn’t allow us to complete the game.”
“The game against Western I think was just preparation,” Kokko continued.
“We weren’t prepared for some big moments, and those are some things we need to be ready for in a playoff game.”
The three game slide hurts, but sitting in fourth place in the OUA West conference with two games left to play, Laurier is assured a playoff spot.
Furthermore, with their win over Guelph on Feb. 11, the Hawks have clinched home court advantage in the first round.
However, what they do with that playoff spot remains to be seen.
“I think that in the west we can compete with anyone. I think that we have got to dictate what we do and if we end up dictating the pace, the defense and the offense,” he said.
“If we dictate [those] then I don’t think there’s anyone we can’t beat.”
The Golden Hawks have stood toe-to-toe against some of U Sport’s highest-ranked teams, losing close games to Brock, Western and Laurentian, and going 1-1 in their two matchups against Ottawa.
They have skill at every level on the floor, and are especially talented at the guard position, where Tevaun Kokko and rookie Ali Sow are one and two on the team for points, assists and steals.
The Golden Hawks are equipped both mentally and physically for a deep playoff run, and what’s more, they know it.
“It’s one game at a time and when that game is over that’s it. Just have that urgency about it. We can make a deep playoff run if we’re all locked in,” Kokko said.
The season is not yet over, with two regular season games to go before playoffs get under way.
With their win against Guelph, the Hawks can finish no lower than fourth in the OUA West.
However, where they finish shouldn’t matter too much if the Hawks play to their full potential.
Throughout the year, this team has shown that they can compete with any team if they play to the best of their abilities.
As such, the word to describe Laurier’s season has not yet been decided, as there is still so much that needs to fall into place.
Hopefully, once playoffs have come and gone, the one word to sum up the Laurier season will be “winning.”