Windsor 89, Laurier 86… 5’10” Mike Rocca banked in a dramatic half-court heave from the left sideline as the buzzer sounded in regulation, lifting the Lancers to a late, come-from-behind victory over the Golden Hawks at Caesar’s Windsor this afternoon. Lancers scored the final 9 points of the game in the final minute and a half including a clutch three from 6’2″ Micqueel Martin with about 30 seconds remaining after the burly wing was left alone off a feed from Rocca. Laurier held for the final shot and, after a foul and a Hawks timeout, 5’11” Tevean Kokko, who was again magnificent in defeat, missed everything with a floater on the left baseline. Martin retrieved the rebound and found Rocca up the left sideline and the lefty sent up his prayer that hammered off the backboard and in as the Lancer players and coaches stormed out onto the court in celebration.
Lancers held double digit leads for long stretches of the first half and early into the second as Rocca (19 points), Martin (19 points) and 6’7″ Laurier transfer Luke Allin (15 points) got going offensively. But the Golden Hawks began guarding the ball with much more purpose and, as importantly, cleaned up the defensive glass with several “one and dones”, with many notably coming off questionable Windsor shot selection. Lancers had 13 “o” boards on the evening but only 2 in the final 15 minutes of the game when Laurier made their big run, coming back from deficits as large as 14.
Keying the run was the exciting freshman Kokko, who got going in the open court and 6’1″ freshman Shamar Burrows had arguably his most confident and productive offensive performance down the stretch, with 6 of his 8 points during a 23-8 run that established an 8 point lead with just 2 1/2 minutes remaining. His drive to the rim tied it and later 6’0″ Owen Coulthard (11 points on 3 3’s) knocked in a transition three from the left sideline off a fine feed from Kokko to give Laurier their first lead of the afternoon. But Windsor scored the final 11 points of the game, including threes from Allin, Martin and the dramatic half-court heave from Rocca to win it.
Laurier’s impressive 6’7″ forward Vlad Matovic (13 points, 8 rebounds), one of the most improved forwards in the conference, was a workhorse in and around the paint all evening, working hard on the offensive glass and scoring with his back to the basket despite some tough luck on a couple of finishes. Matovic has a chance to finish his career as a higher-end OUA talent before all is said and done.
The Golden Hawks certainly deserved better on this night but could not finish, going scoreless in the final 2 1/2 minutes but this young team is gaining confidence, narrowly missing a key road win against a solid Lancer group. With the victory, Windsor snaps a three-game losing streak and remains alive in the race to host a first-round OUA playoff game. Lancers finish at Waterloo on Saturday and then have their final two games at home against McMaster and Brock and victories in those games should improve their RPI even more. The Hawks host Western Mustangs on Saturday and then complete their regular season at Lakehead a week from this Saturday in Thunder Bay.