By: Jackson Starr (Photos by Valerie Wutti)
OTTAWA - In the first game of the playoffs, the Carleton Ravens men's basketball team came away with a 97-84 victory over the Laurier Golden Hawks. Carleton got off to a strong start and was able to ride out the victory with the help of its veterans.
The Ravens came out of the gate flying on all cylinders after a week's worth of prep for this game. Grant Shephard (Kelowna, BC.) led the way for the Ravens with 13 first-quarter points. Connor Vreeken (Kingston, Ont.) also picked up seven points in the quarter, helping build the Ravens' lead. The Golden Hawks responded with a couple of big buckets of their own in the late stages and tried to claw back into the game. The Ravens, though, still held a solid 32-17 lead after the first 10 minutes of play.
The Golden Hawks had a very strong second quarter to battle their way back into it. Carleton tried to maintain the lead, but Laurier kept making shots to claw back into the game. Justin Malnerich led the way offensively for the Golden Hawks putting 11 points on the board in the second including some large three-point shots. Despite being outscored 21-14 in the quarter, Carleton held a 46-38 lead heading into halftime.
The Ravens did a good job at maintaining the lead in the third. Carleton responded to Laurier whenever it would make a shot, coming the other way to make shots of their own. Aiden Warnholtz (Ottawa, Ont.) improved in the second half and collected seven points for himself in the third quarter. MJ Okado (Calgary, Alb.) also did a good job off of the bench collecting six third-quarter points. It was a long and gruelling back-and-forth quarter for both sides and wrapped up with Carleton in front 68-55.
Both teams split the fourth quarter 29-29, in a highly competitive final 10 minutes of play. The Ravens once again had answers for all of the Golden Hawks's buckets and were able to maintain a strong advantage. Shephard once again came alive in the fourth, collecting 12 points in the quarter to finish off a terrific game with a career-high 32 on the night. The Ravens were able to stay out of foul trouble while still maintaining the intensity to close off the Golden Hawks 97-84.
The win sends the Ravens to the OUA Wilson Cup semifinals, set to face off against the Queen's Gaels at the Ravens’ Nest Wednesday night. The game is a rematch of last year’s semifinals and will be the third matchup between the two teams in the season.
FROM HEAD COACH TAFFE CHARLES:
“It's playoff basketball. It's not about how much you win; it's about just winning. It's about getting the result at this time of year. It’s not going to be pretty…at the end of the day I’m glad we had the result and won.”
On Grant Shephard:
“He is at another level when he’s trying. He was really focused tonight, and it showed. Didn’t want to settle for stuff. It was nice to have him there and I think we needed him tonight.”
On Depth and Turnovers:
“We need a little bit more depth. We’re trying to find the right guys to be able to play meaningful minutes but our main guys (are) doing a pretty decent job. The turnovers are the turnovers, hopefully we're going to keep them down to a minimum and we're going to have to on Wednesday.”
On Matchup Against Queen’s:
“They weren’t at full strength in either of those games, (nor) were we. It should be interesting to see both of us at even strength, we will see what happens. They had a great result against us last year but this year we've got to figure out a way to be a little bit better. They're a pretty deep, pretty good offensive team, we’ve just got to make sure that we win the battles of the boards.”
On First Years in First Playoff Game:
“Pretty shaky, but it is what it is. It's a new level and the intensity got up, it's not because they’re not trying, they’re trying as hard as they possibly can, probably trying a little too hard, gripping the ball a little bit too hard. They’ll be better the next day I’ll guarantee you that. First time (in the) playoffs it's pretty stressful.”
FROM GRANT SHEPHARD:
“Definitely a fast-paced game. The key for us was controlling the pace, Laurier’s a pretty sporadic team so just keeping control of the pace, playing at our speed. We want to play our own way so just making sure we keep control of that.”
On Teams Progression:
“I think we’ve come a long way. We’re a pretty young team and people may have seen weaknesses in the preseason, maybe midseason so I think we're coming along nicely, we’re peaking at the right time…We’re doing a really good job of coming together, focusing (and) the playoffs look really good for us.”
On Mentality in Elimination Games:
“All these games are do or die. For some people it could make you panic, (or) nervous but you can’t think like that. It’ll only be bad if you're nervous. The panic just has to turn into a focus.”
On Facing Queen’s:
“Definitely a good team, good game from them. I think we can beat them, we're confident but we're going to have to focus. It’s a quick turnaround, we only have Monday and Tuesday to practice so we’re going to have to come ready.”