Much was made of the deep, athletic roster assembled by the York Lions with several solid young talents returning including 6’6″ Nathan Culbreath – one of the more underrated skilled and athletic wings in the entire country – 6’3″ Gene Spagnuolo, 6’2″ Phillip Gillen and 6’5″ Daniel Tulloch plus potentially high-end additions 6’0″ combo guard Shane Reader who returned from a couple of seasons south of the border, 6’6″ Tommy Hobbs, a U.S. import from Alaska via New Orleans Privateers, an NCAA Division 1 program in the Southland Conference and 6’4″ Tristan Newman. Despite rarely having a complete roster due to injuries (especially Tulloch who again has missed meaningful time) Lions were competitive in the pre-season playing Lakehead tough to a 1 point loss at Brock and staying very close at uOttawa for much of the game among others.
Unfortunately, that optimism has not translated into regular season wins as the Lions sit at just 3-13 and are three games in the loss column behind third-place U of T Varsity Blues with just 3 games remaining in the fight for the final OUA East playoff spot.
While the record is disappointing, a closer look reveals that 7 of the losses – including the past 3 in a row all at home – were by 4 points or fewer with York having a chance to win in virtually all seven of the games. To wit:
- at Queen’s (4 point loss; down by as many as 19 and down 15 with 7 minutes left, Lions tie it with 2 minutes remaining and have a chance to tie on final possession but cannot score)
- at Waterloo (up 3 with 26 seconds left, lose by 3)
- at Toronto (tied late, lose by 2 with a last second shot to tie that comes off)
- Queen’s at home (lose by 3, missed a last second look at a three to tie)
- Guelph at home (lose by 4, down 17 midway through 4th, got it to 2 before Gryphs won it on the foul line)
- Windsor at home (lose by 1 in OT giving up winning free throw in final seconds)
- Western at home (lose by 1 with chance to win it on last possession after Mustangs miss two free throws)
York did have a couple of character road wins, winning in OT at Laurentian and by 4 at Laurier. Still, a combination of injuries, slow starts to games and inconsistency in the paint area play have plagued the Lions. The Lions have been without their second leading scorer Reader for four of the past 6 games. Tulloch, who had all the ear markings of star in the making, has played in only 5 games all season. 6’2″ Raheem Isaac has missed the past 6 games while Gillen did not play in either game this past weekend. York has not won a game since late November (0-9 in the new calendar year) and has not won a single home regular season game all season – an inconsistent roster due to injuries very likely has been a major issue.
With 3 games remaining: at Algoma on Friday night, home to Toronto next Friday and then home to Ryerson the night after that, York is still mathematically in contention for a playoff spot. Lions (3-13) trail third-place U of T (5-10) by 2 1/2 games (3 games in the loss column). Two victories by the Blues in their final 4 games (at Guelph, at Lakehead, at York and at Queen’s) will clinch a playoff spot and 1 victory combined with a one-point loss at York will do same.
But York needs to win up in the Soo first and hope to get some help from others to keep their playoff dreams alive.