The Thunderdome was electric. The line for tickets to get into the McMaster and Lakehead playoff battle was rumoured to be an hour-long wait.
From tip-off, the Thunder Bay, Ont. stadium was a standing-room-only crowd. Home-court advantage is desirable in OUA basketball, but even more so for the Lakehead Thunderwolves.
Despite a 12-point deficit at halftime, the Thunderwolves were able to rally and comeback to defeat the Marauders 81-76.
The loss ends the rollercoaster campaign for the Maroon and Grey, where they finished with a regular season record of 13-8.
Mac was without their starting point guard Adam Presutti, who suffered another injury in the last practice before the playoff match-up.
Head coach Amos Connolly gave credit to Thunderwolves guards for turning the momentum of the game.
“Ben Johnson’s three 3s, all in the second half. And Greg Carter can absolutely dominate the game: nine assists, nine steals, two fouls,” said Connolly. “[Carter] was the difference. You could tell the conversation he either had openly or in his head at halftime: ‘I’m taking over.’”
Connolly’s crew had their share of incredible performances. Taylor Black played a season-high 37 minutes, shooting 10-16 from the field and 5-5 from the line for 29 points.
The third-year forward also grabbed seven rebounds and dished out two assists.
In his final game as a Marauder, Scott Laws played the type of game that his coaches and fans have come to expect.
Logging 37 minutes of play, Laws played tough defense on a deep Lakehead backcourt while pulling down six boards and notching three steals.
Time has not made the loss any easier to swallow, as the Mac bench boss still has a sour taste in his mouth after the playoff exit.
“The things I was happy about on Saturday night, I’ll be happy about for a long time. The things I’m angry about from Saturday night, I’ll be angry about for a long time,” explains Connolly.
“Whether I feel better or not about the loss is an up in the air question.”
One of the major positives was the effort level the Marauders showed throughout the game.
Lakehead featured six seniors, compared to only one for Mac, but that difference only existed on paper.
McMaster did not allow the age difference to be a factor on the court and they competed as hard as a coach could ask.
All eyes now turn to the off-season and the Maroon coach says he already has guys itching to get in the gym.
“I think we are poised to be very good. The only way to be very good though is to make sure you improve in your offseason.”