Two and out for L.U. mens basketball|
by Randy Pascal
Hopefully Laurentian Voyageurs men's basketball coach Shawn Swords is taking some comfort in the fact the gap appears to be closing.
Despite not being able to overcome the barrier that is the second round of the OUA Wilson Cup playoffs, the Voyageurs will exit from a post-season
that featured a first round 88-72 win over the Laurier Golden Hawks, followed by a 93-81 setback at the hands of the Ottawa Gee Gees, armed
with the knowledge that they can move forward, building around a core that includes the league's top freshman.
Just days after being eliminated, the L.U. men received word that U Sports leading scorer Kadre Gray had been selected as the OUA Rookie
of the Year, as well as being named to the first all-star and all-rookie teams, after netting 23.2 points per game this year.
The Toronto native, the first Voyageur to receive Rookie of the Year honours since Manny Pasquale in 2009-2010, was front and center in the team's
home playoff victory, registering 26 points, with David Aromolaran adding 23.
Nelson Yengue (14) and O.J. Watson (9) also chipped in, as Laurentian jumped out to a 38-29 lead at the half, eventually pulling away with
a 26-point effort in the fourth quarter.
Fellow rookie sensation Tevaun Kokko showed the way for Laurier, finishing with 24 points, as the Hawks struggled to match the work of the homeside
on the boards. The Voyageurs out-rebounded the visitors 48-33, including 37-17 on the defensive end, with no less than six different players recording four
rebounds or more for coach Swords.
Laurentian also doubled Laurier in free throw points (20-10), and posted a much better field goal percentage (51.6% vs 35.5%), though the Hawks were more
efficient from beyond the arc, sinking twice as many three point attempts.
The end of the road, for the L.U. crew, would come three nights later, as Ottawa bounced Laurentian from the dance for the second time in three years.
The Gee Gees bolted to a 22-12 first quarter lead, increasing the advantage to 43-29 by the half.
Trailing 71-49 entering the fourth quarter, the Voyageurs made things more respectable, outscoring the homeside 32-22 over the course of the final ten
minutes of play. Gray rose to the occasion, yet again, draining a game-high 39 points, with Anthony Iacoe and Aromolaran also hitting double digits
with 14 and 13 points respectively in a losing cause.
A very balanced Ottawa attack featured nine different players sharing in the point production, a grouping that was led by Matt Plunkett (21),
Caleb Agada (16), Jean-Emmanuel Pierre (15) and Adam Presutti (11).
While Laurentian did a good job in the paint, hauling in seven more rebounds than their opponents, the tables were turned compared to Laurier when it
came to shooting. Ottawa proved notably more accurate, both in general FG percentage (51.7% vs 35.0%), and also from three-point land (46.2% vs 33.3%).
Though it is an absolute guarantee that not all 17 athletes who dotted the Laurentian roster this season will return in 2017-2018, it is interesting to
note that the team will not lose anyone to mandatory eligibility graduation, with no fifth year players on the squad.
Odds and Ends: In cracking the OUA first all-star team, Gray became the first Voyageur since Pasquale to accomplish the feat. Gray led the
OUA this year in field goals made (141) and free throws made (130), and placed within the top ten in free throw percentage (80.7%), defensive rebounds (98),
assists (69) and steals (37).
Former Voyageur Ryan Bennett, who transferred over to Brock prior to the 2015-2016 campaign in order to complete his MBA, will be presented the
Ken Shields Award, given to the student-athlete who exhibits outstanding achievement in the areas of basketball, academics, and community
The Laurentian Voyageurs women's basketball team also emerged with a little recognition of their own, as Timmins native Kayla Deschatelets was
also named to the all-rookie team.
The Sports Psychology major started 17 games this season for the blue and gold, averaging 9.1 points per game while shooting at a better than 40% clip
from the field.