Voyageurs gain valuable playoff experience 

By Ron Guillet

The Laurentian Voyageurs’ basketball team wrapped up its season on Feb.25, and it was one for the Laurentian history books.

The Voyageurs finished with an 11-11 record on the regular season and finished fourth in the East division to secure its first home playoff game in the last nine years. The team also scored the second most points in the East with 1839 points for, which ranked them fifth overall in the Ontario University Athletics. Laurentian displayed consistency in the defensive end as well, as the team was one of nine in the league, out of 18 teams, to post a positive point differential.

The Voyageurs’ first playoff game, hosted in the Ben Avery Gymnasium, had the team against the Toronto Varsity Blues, who finished with a 10-12 record and was fifth in the East, on Wednesday, Feb.22. The presence of the home crowd seemed to spark the Voyageurs, as they the dominated the Blues in both ends of the court, outscoring theopposition30-12injustthefirstquarter. Manny Pasquale, who finished with 18 points on the night, led the team offensively with some key contributions from Isiah Pasquale and Mike Hull, who both had 16 points. The Blues regained composure in the following quarters but provided the Voyageurs with a scare in the fourth quarter. They outscored Laurentian 29-17 and looked poised to send the game to overtime, but the Voyageurs’ first quarter proved to be the difference as they edged the Blues 80-74.

Laurentian advanced to the OUA Quarter-Final against the undefeated Carleton Ravens, who led the OUA with a 22-0 record in the regular season, on Saturday, Feb.25. Laurentian displayed its offensive prowess in the first quarter as they finished the first quarter tied 18-18 against the Ravens’ top-ranked offense, which had 121 more points in the regular season than the second-ranked Laurier Golden Hawks. The Ravens separated themselves by a small margin in the second quarter, taking the frame 19- 11. The Voyageurs replied with a strong third quarter, led by CIS leading scorer M.Pasquale, who produced 34 points and capitalized on all seven of his free throw attempts. The Ravens’ offensive depth–five players produced over 10 points in the game–shone through in the fourth quarter, however, and the Voyageurs comeback was stunted as they lost the game 87- 66.

Voyageurs head coach Shawn Swords is content with the season but hopes the playoff experience helps vault the Voyageurs to the next level.

“Injuries and some untimely losses late in the season caused us to fall to fourth place, which ultimately had us against Carleton after a playoff win,” Swords said. “I’m hoping that after hosting a playoff game and winning, and then going on the  road to play the top-ranked team in the country, that the experience will help make us a contender from day one next year and threaten to dethrone Carleton.”

Swords said the development of some of its key players, including Nelson Yengue, Shavaan Sheldon, Alex Ratte, Eric Ducharme and Jamie Weldon will aid the  team in its goal to reach the Nationals.