After a hard-fought tournament resulting in a silver medal for the Laurier men’s basketball team, the guys failed to re-create any such success this past Friday. In an eight-team tournament at the University of Toronto’s Mississauga campus, their play was marred by fundamental mistakes and a lack of energy. “We wanted it, but we didn’t want to play for it,” Co-captain Oje Izirein said.
After squeaking into the semi-finals with a 49-48 win against Humber, the Golden Hawks had an incredibly disappointing 50-23 defeat at the hands of Centennial College.
Laurier started the tournament with decent play and won a lop-sided game against the University of Toronto’s Scarborough campus. However, Laurier’s momentum wavered in their third game against Humber College. Laurier finished the first half leading 20-16, but they lost a key player in the process. Guard Alex Packer had to leave near the end of the first half with what was later reported to be a sprained ankle. He would not return to play in the tournament.
The Golden Hawks played sluggish on both sides of the ball, outworked for loose balls and rebounds to start the second half, with Humber’s comeback to take the lead highlighted by a huge dunk. Halfway through the second half Laurier regained the lead, but it was a struggle to the very end.
They never lost the lead down the stretch en route to their 49-48 win, but it wasn’t without drama. On two occasions with the Hawks up by one point, the UTM Eagles were charged with two turnovers: a double dribble with seven seconds remaining and then the clincher, a freethrow infraction, in which the shooter’s foot was passed the freethrow line.
The team followed up the nail-biter with a poor showing against Centennial, headlined by some questionable coaching decisions.
Laurier was once again sluggish, not getting rebounds and letting Centennial players easily drive to the basket, giving up easy lay-ups. After six minutes, Coach Syed Hassan seemed to have seen enough and pulled the entire starting lineup out of the game. And that was it. They didn’t return not only for the rest of the half, but for the rest of the game.
Things were hard to watch from that point on. Laurier didn’t score a point for three and a half minutes to start the second half and turned the ball over three times in a row when inbounding the ball. Hassan stands by what he did. “[The players] didn’t execute our game-plan, box out players or run plays,” he said. “I want to motivate the team and have them learn from their mistakes.”
Teaching the team a lesson is all well and good, but there was a game to be won and the basketball team wasn’t put in the best possible position to win the game. Benching the starters for the rest of first half would make sense to motivate them to start fresh and be determined to improve in the second half. But making them sit and watch their team, which at one point was down by 30 points, lose right to the bitter end is excessive.
Izirein won’t let this happen again and is motivated to keep it that way. “The next one is not going to be like that. I won’t let us lose like that.”