By Gabriel Rodrigues, Assistant Editor
Although Laurentian’s men’s basketball team managed only seven wins throughout the 2014-15 OUA campaign, their coach believes the Voyageurs “progressed well” as the season moved forward.
“We started off with a very tough schedule,” said Shawn Swords. “But, (we) learned a lot, which helped us at the end of the year. When we worked hard for 40 minutes, we competed with the best in the country and when we didn’t, we struggled against anyone.”
Laurentian finished their OUA season with a record of 7-12, which left the Voyageurs in third place within the North Division just behind the eventual CIS silver medalist Ottawa Gee-Gees (18-1) and National Champion Carleton Ravens (17-2).
However, the Voyageurs’ overall record that includes games against nonconference opponents was 9-15, which ranked Laurentian 32nd within the CIS at this season’s end.
Nonetheless, Laurentian’s third place finish within the OUA North was good enough to earn a preliminary first round playoff match-up against the York Lions (10-9) on Feb. 25.
Despite the Voyageurs losing to the Lions earlier in the season by a score of 83-66 on Jan. 9, this time around Laurentian managed to defeat York 87-84 at the Tait Mckenzie Centre in Toronto.
According to Swords, early defensive stops and offensive execution “translated to a big lead” and an eventual OUA first round playoff victory against the York Lions.
“They had beat us pretty easily at the start of the second semester,” Swords said. “We didn’t feel like we had played a great game in the sense that our energy and intensity was very low. So, we started this game off with some great defense and went into half time with a 12-point lead. They made a nice run right at the end of the game which closed the gap to one point, but again, we were able to play some good defense and end up with the win.”
After beating York, Laurentian earned an OUA quarter-final match-up against the Ottawa Gee-Gees, in which the Voyageurs fell short of an upset and lost 116-71 at the Montpetit Hall in the nation’s capital on Feb. 28.
While the Voyageurs lost rather convincingly against the Gee-Gees in the OUA quarter-finals, Swords said he didn’t “put expectations on how far we could go” in the season.
“By the end (of the year), we truly believed in ourselves,” he said. “We lost some games we could have won, and won some games we could have lost. The end result is winning a playoff game which is good and then losing to the eventually silver medalist at the CIS Championships. This group did a great job of adapting as the year progressed.”
Third-year Laurentian player, Ryan Bennett, led the Voyageurs in scoring with an average of 16.5 points-per-game, which includes a 30-point performance in the OUA playoffs versus the York Lions.
Following Bennett was Laurentian captain Tychon Carter-Newman, as the fourth-year Voyageur averaged 15.3 points, 7.2 rebounds and 3.5 assists per-game, eventually awarding him an OUA Second-Team All-Star finish.
Also, third-year player, Sam Hirst, contributed throughout the season in scoring for Laurentian, as he averaged 14.6 points-per-game.
Moving forward to next year, Swords is certain he will try to bring in some new recruits during the offseason, but also said his current squad must start to develop their skills on both sides of the court.
“We were lacking some scoring and rebounding this year,” he said. “The current players need to get out and work on their shooting, so we can all be a threat at the defensive end. We need to bring the same intensity to the game every night and need to limit our mental mistakes that add up.”