Photo C/O Sachi Chan
With a loss in the quarterfinals of the Ontario University Athletics playoffs, the Marauders’ season is coming to an end. The year was full of ups and downs for the grey and maroon, from tough losses to high scoring streaks. The men’s basketball team never seemed to find a solid rhythm and continuous success never took hold.
The 2019 season started off well as the men pulled in nine wins out of the first thirteen games, showing great promise. Jordan Henry, one of the OUA’s points per game frontrunners, was a force on the court. The team seemed to be melding well together and the young roster was proving that they could compete against some of the more experienced squads in the association.
“I think it started off with a lot of energy because of all the time we spent in the summer together on and off the court that just gave us the energy to feel like we are all in this together,” said Kwasi Adu-Poku, a fourth year forward on the team.
However, by January, the team had hit a slump. Losing eight out of twelve appearances on the court, they completely flipped the winning narrative from the first half of the season. This was when they were truly tested as a team, revealing how they could deal with adversity.
Despite the losing streak, the team certainly rallied when it mattered most. They were able to squeeze out four wins in January, which, in combination with their hot streaks in the months before the new year, earned them a spot in the bracket for the Wilson Cup.
The first round saw the Marauders facing the University of Brock Badgers squad, who had tied McMaster with overall regular-season wins and losses at a .545 per cent winning percentage. The game was close with a finish of 83-71 in McMaster’s favour, but it was Mac’s defence that shined. The second quarter saw the Badgers only scoring nine points, as the defensive efforts of the Marauders stifled any of Brock’s offensive attempts. This allowed the maroon to create a sizable lead which the Badgers could not overcome.
The Marauders then travelled to Ottawa to face the fierce, and first place, Carleton University Ravens. This would lead to the hardest competition McMaster had seen all season, as the Ravens were heading into the Wilson Cup as the favourite to win.
Carleton absolutely dominated the regular season, losing just one game out of the 22 played. They had a near unfathomable winning percentage of .955 and averaged 97.8 points per game with a hyper-efficient 50 per cent from the field and 75 per cent from the charity stripe.
Carleton was by far the most dominant team in the entirety of the OUA and arguably even in the entire country, as they held the best record of any U Sports team for the 2019-2020 season. This was truly an unequal match against the underdog Marauders who fought their way into the playoffs by tooth and nail.
“One thing I noticed with Carleton is that they never quit, they adapt to your schemes and strengths and put constant pressure on you. They really fight through the tiredness and just outlast their opponents,” said Adu-Poku.
Carleton pulled away with the win after playing intense defense and deadly shooting, outscoring the Marauders in every quarter. The Ravens scored no less than 24 points a quarter while topping out with 33 in the second, while McMaster struggled to crack over 20 per quarter and were held to less points each quarter as Carleton’s defense took over the game.
Looking back on this year, the season was a great learning experience for the Marauders. The young squad got some great experience dealing with adversity and facing championship-caliber competition in the playoffs. These tests will be far more valuable than an easy trip to the top would have been.
“I feel like the biggest thing from this whole season we took was the importance of communication because when things were good communication was alright and the winning camouflaged that, but then as we started to see more struggles we realized how we needed stronger communication to maintain what we did in the first half of the season,” Adu-Poku remarked.
Building on communication skills and dealing with the adversities of injuries plaguing their mid-season journey really builds character in the locker room. All of these factors will help provide the team with the fuel to become better players. The newfound drive along with returning stars Henry, who was just named OUA second-team all-star, and as Adu-Poku will provide a team with a head full of steam, a stronger connection and a path to success.
With key performers like Henry and Kwasi Adu-Poku taking on larger responsibilities in the locker room as veterans like Connor Gilmore graduate, there will be a new wave in Marauders basketball. The new slate and new leadership have the opportunity to lead these newly experienced players to another run at the Wilson Cup.