The Lakehead Thunderwolves have advanced to the McGee Cup final round with a 66-62 win over the Ottawa Gee Gees on Saturday in CIS Men's Basketball semifinal action.
Joseph Jones had 24 points and six rebounds off the bench to lead the Thunderwolves, who will take on Carleton in the final. The Ravens defeated the Acadia Axemen 84-69 in the other semifinal.
"My teammates look for me to step up," said Jones. "They told me I had to step up and that's what I did. I wasn't going to let them down.
"I'm the energy man. Everybody knows … I'm coming off the bench and I'm going to give it all I got. I'm the sixth man, that's what I've been all my career. I'm the energy guy and that's what I do."
As seventh seed, Lakehead has won two more games than most people would have expected, but coach Scott Morrison thinks they might just have a little magic left.
"A lot of people put in a lot of blood, sweat and tears to get us to this point, and here we are," said Morrison. "I know the last time that Lakehead was in this game, not one person in that dressing room was even alive, including me.
"It's been a drought for us. Win or lose, it's going to be a great opportunity and a great achievement for our program. We'll try to suck it up for sixteen more hours here."
Warren Ward paced Ottawa with 21 points and 10 rebounds.
Both teams came out a bit tentatively, and it took 1:42 before the Thunderwolves opened the scoring. Lakehead took the early lead but by the end of the first quarter the score was knotted at 16-16.
The Gee Gees scored most of their points inside the paint as they appeared unable, or unwilling to take the three point shot.
It might have been a good strategy, as they only hit 1-of-8 in the first half. They finished the game making only 2-of-19. According to head coach James Derouin, that was the story of the game.
"Obviously credit to the Lakehead defence, knowing that the three-point shot is such a major thing for our offence and our team throughout the season," said Derouin. "I thought we were going to be able to scrap through it, even without making shots and for a while it looked like we were going to be able to do it
"I mean we can win with five or six, but we're going to have a tough time winning with making only two of nineteen threes."
At the half Ottawa led by 32-30, with Ward (eight points, seven rebounds) and Caleb Agada (10 points and six rebounds) carrying the play for the Gee Gees. The Thunderwolves, spreading the ball around didn't have a player in double digits, Jones being the closest with eight.
Turning it up
In the third quarter the Gee Gees, and specifically Ward decided to turn things up a bit and by the end of the quarter had managed to increase their lead to 49-44.
With their season on the line, Lakehead pulled in front 58-53. They had a run of eleven unanswered points, nine of them from Jones.
The Gee Gees pulled to within two, with eight seconds remaining, but they would get no closer, as Jones, shooting two from the free throw line buried both to put the Thunderwolves in front to stay.
In the other semi, brothers Thomas Scrubb and Phillip Scrubb combined for 46 points as Carleton advanced to the final.
Phillip Scrubb had 26 points while Thomas finished with 20 points and five rebounds.
Phillip Scrubb gave a lot of credit to his brother, who was selected as the Ravens player of the game.
"He's probably our best player the past month," said Phillip Scrubb, " He guards the other team's best player and he's probably been our best offensive player too. He's really stepped up and he's a big reason why we're here today."
Sean Stoqua with 20 points was the leading scorer for Acadia.
Carleton never trailed in the opening frame, but at the end of the first 10 minutes only led by two, 14-12.
The teams picked up the pace in the second quarter, but when they headed to the dressing room at the half, the lead had changed four times, and it was Carleton in front 31-29.
In the third quarter the Ravens offence, and particularly CIS player of the year Phillip Scrubb took over. Phillip Scrubb racked up fourteen points in the third quarter alone to help the Ravens to a 51-41 lead with only a quarter to play.
In the final quarter the Ravens added to their lead despite the precision shooting of Stoqua. The Axemen had no answer for the aerial attack of the Scrubb brothers Thomas and Phillip.
Carleton coach Dave Smart says he knows the Ravens are in for a battle with Lakehead.
"They are the toughest team in the country," said Smart. "Mentally, physically, what they've done the last three games is incredible. My guys and I have the utmost respect and concern over having to play that team. They beat what I think was the best team in the tournament in the semis, so tomorrow is a little scary for us."