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The cold Thunder Bay weekend saw both team basketball teams finish the 2021 portion of their respective seasons, while the women’s volleyball team finished their 2021 on the road. With the other Thunderwolves athletes already on semester-break hiatus, the ball teams finished out a busy weekend.
The Thunderwolves hit the court for the first time in three weeks down in London, where they faced the Western Mustangs.
The three-game weekend saw the home team enter and close the weekend undefeated.
The first set of game one saw Lakehead give up an early run of service aces and quick kills to the tune of a 4-1 deficit. The Thunderwolves refused to let Western pull away, but the gap remained at Western took the first set. The second set saw the visiting Lakehead squad hit the court with energy, claiming a number of early leads before the Mustangs pulled away and made it 2-0. The home team finished the game in the third set.
The experienced Mustangs carried the wins into the second and third matches, claiming them both in straight sets.
“It was a tough weekend with three hard fought matches,” Thunderwolves head coach Brett Hagarty said. “I am proud of how the team competed throughout the weekend. We were able to learn and make adjustments and have our best match on Sunday.”
Veteran hitters Virginie Franks and Megan Nahachewsky combined for 26 kills over the weekend, while Rebekah Hara finished with 22 digs. Cayleigh Fossum had six digs of her own in her OUA debut.
“Every single person was able to contribute this weekend,” Hagarty said. “We are a young team and got some good experience this weekend, which we will be able to use in the second half of the season in January.”
Hara, the veteran libero, is currently sixth in the OUA in digs at 3.23 per set.
The women’s volleyball team will return from the semester break when they face the Windsor Lancers on the road January 21st and 22nd. They will return home to the Thunderdome the following weekend when they will host the Waterloo Warriors.
The Thunderwolves women’s basketball squad faced the Western Mustangs, one of the top teams in the OUA West, in the CJ Sanders Fieldhouse to close out 2021.
Friday night’s game saw the Lakehead hoopers push out to an early 22-16 lead paced by Tiffany Reynolds’ 10-point, 2-steal, 2-rebound first quarter. The Mustangs battled back in the second and took a lead into the half, only for the Thunderwolves to mount a comeback of their own and pull up five going into the fourth. The lead wouldn’t hold, however, with the Mustangs taking game one, 61-58.
“I was super proud of our team on Friday,” Thunderwolves head coach Jon Kreiner said. “Under tough situations we battled and found a way to compete with a very skilled Western team.”
Senior leader Tiffany Reynolds paced the Lakehead squad with 18 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists, and 5 steals.
“Tiff was amazing,” Kreiner said.
Alexia Giroux contributed 11 points and 3 assists, while Eva Guilera added 10 points, 8 rebounds, and 2 blocks.
The second game of the back-to-back was a different story, however, as the Mustangs took an early lead and won each quarter on the way to an 85-52 victory.
“Our night to get the upset was Friday,” Kreiner said. “We had no legs left and their height killed us inside.”
Ally Burke led the Thunderwolves on Saturday with 12 points, 4 assists, and 3 rebounds, while Reynolds added 11 points, 4 assists, and 1 steal. Guilera again blocked two shots while grabbing 7 rebounds.
Tiffany Reynolds enters the semester break 4th in the OUA in assists per game, 6th in assist-to-turnover ratio, and 10th in steals per game. Eva Guilera is currently 13th in the OUA in rebounds per game.
Lakehead’s women’s basketball team returns home in January when they will face the Windsor Lancers on the 21st and 22nd at 6:00pm.
The men’s basketball team welcomed the USports #10 ranked Western Mustangs into Thunder Bay for a matchup of two of the top teams in Canada, and the games were anything but dull.
The visiting squad established their offence early, taking a 47-41 lead into the half. Western phenom Omar Shiddo scored 11 first-quarter points on his way to 37. The Thunderwolves battled back, however, and took a 79-73 lead with just over five minutes remaining in the match. A late Western three and a slew of free throws put the Mustangs back in front in the final moments though, with the visitors winning 88-85.
“It was a hard-fought game,” Thunderwolves head coach Ryan Thomson said. “Ultimately we had too many lapses, and that led to Western coming out on top. We put Shiddo on the line too many times, took too many tough shots, and didn’t take care of the ball in critical moments.”
Shiddo finished the night with 18 of Western’s 35 free throw attempts (the Thunderwolves had 24), and the officials had the hometown crowd raining boos over a few different calls throughout the evening.
Lakehead’s Michael Okafor finished with 15 points, 14 rebounds, 6 assists, and 3 steals, but shot 5-14 from the floor. Chume Nwigwe and Alston Harris added 12 points and 5 assists each. Critically, the Thunderwolves 54% from the free throw line, leaving 11 points on the floor.
Saturday’s game was more of the same back-and-forth action, and the Thunderwolves faithful showed no signs of fatigue. The weather was cold but the Thunderdome was hot as the crowd hung off every play.
Lakehead came out fast and scored first, but the Mustangs refused to go away. The two squads either tied or exchanged leads ten different times in the first quarter alone. The Thunderwolves held a lead throughout the second frame, however, ultimately taking a 48-40 advantage into halftime. And then the Thunderdome got a little louder.
Western took a the third quarter and pushed on in the fourth, and despite Lakehead leading by nine with five and a half minutes to go, the Thunderwolves found themselves down a bucket with less than a minute left. After an exchange of free throws each way, Lakehead held possession down two with less than ten seconds left Thunderwolves guard Laoui Msambya sliced into the lane and scored, forcing overtime.
The extra period saw 11 lead changes, with Western guard Omar Shiddo scoring two to make it 107-102 in favour of the Mustangs with less than a minute to go. On the ensuing plays, however, Lakehead’s Eric Gonzalez scored two before another Msambya drive resulted in a kick-out to guard Chris Sagl, who swung the ball to a waiting Jared Kreiner, who let the deep shot fly. His arc was true, and the home team found themselves up 1 with 24 seconds to go. Shiddo scored the last two of his 37 with four seconds to go, but in a repeat of the end-of-regulation theatrics, Msambya scored an acrobatic bucket in the paint as the time expired, and Lakehead claimed the 110-109 victory.
“It was another hard-fought game,” Thomson said. “Shiddo and Palma played tremendously all weekend and really made it tough on our guards with their shot making.”
Shiddo and Palma scored 127-combined points in the two games.
“Despite some foul trouble, I was proud of the way our group competed,” Thomson added. “Everyone who entered the game was able to make a positive contribution. Jared and Laoui may have made timely shots, but Eric’s consistent effort defensively and on the glass was the difference maker tonight.”
Gonzalez finished the win with 13 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 blocks, and 2 steals. Msambya finished with 18 points, 5 rebounds, and whopping 12 assists. Chris Sagl scored 20 off the bench.
Lakehead’s men’s basketball team currently sits 3-5 in regular season play (7-5 overall), however, they hold the third-highest RPI in the country after having faced one of the toughest first-half schedules in the country.
The Thunderwolves are currently 6th in the OUA in assists per game as a team, led by Msambya’s 5.3, good for 3rd highest in Canada, and his 3.6:1 assists-to-turnover ratio, the best in the country.
Lakehead’s defensive efforts are anchored by Dylan Morrison’s Canada-best 1.9 blocks per game, and Michael Okafor’s 3.2 steals per game, good for second nationally.
Lakehead’s men’s basketball team returns home in January when they will face the Windsor Lancers on the 21st and 22nd at 8:00pm.