By Gavin Axelrod
A busy weekend of action at the Mattamy Athletic Centre came to a close Sunday afternoon with the Rams men’s basketball team pulling out a 70-66 victory over the Laurentian Voyageurs.
The Rams were led by solid performances from third-year guard Jaaden Lewis who scored 22 points, first-year Aaron Rhooms who had a game-high 11 rebounds and rookie Elijah Roye who made the most of his 29 minutes of action by scoring in double figures and grabbing six rebounds.
“You’re watching some of the young guys grow up … on other teams they probably don’t get this because they’re playing on a team full of seniors,” said Rams head coach David DeAveiro.
It was all Rams in the first quarter of Sunday’s game and guard Jaaden Lewis lead the way with 12 points in the opening frame.
The home side’s defence also hounded its opposition and it wasn’t until 1:47 remained in the first quarter that Laurentian hit double figures.
But while Ryerson controlled the pace and won the opener 24-13, the following ten minutes of action weren’t as kind to them.
Laurentian responded well in the final quarter of Sunday’s first half, outscoring the Rams 17-10 before the break. In addition, the Voyageurs held the Rams to 23.5 per cent shooting in the quarter.
Things weren’t much better for the home side from three-point range. The Rams were 1-9 from deep in the second quarter, compared to 2-4 in the game’s opening 10 minutes.
Despite letting the Voyageurs into the game in the second quarter, the Rams defence kept them in it. The home side took a 34-30 lead into the halftime break, but Laurentian was right on their heels.
DeAverio said back in the locker room, he keyed in on what made the Rams successful in the first quarter. He added that once they identified where they fell flat, they could implement the changes in the following 20 minutes of play.
“What’s more important now is the playoffs and so you can’t run these guys into the ground trying to get a win,” he said. “I think for us it was just making small adjustments and coming out and having a conversation about ‘what were we doing well? Let’s get back to what we were doing well.’”
Both teams came out of the intermission hungry for victory and neither side gave the other an edge. This resulted in lead changes aplenty and the score being tied at 51-51 heading into the final minutes of action. An impressive highlight in the quarter saw Rhooms rise up over three Laurentian defenders, shoot a fadeaway jumper and earn some help from the rim for two of his 13 points.
Halfway through the final quarter of action Laurentian built a six point lead and were mounting pressure on the Rams. But the Rams would battle back, lead by the charge of Lewis and Rhooms. The two combined for 35 points in the victory.
With under a minute left, Rhooms converted on an and-one to make it 68-64, all but sealing the contest. The two sides would trade baskets, but it wouldn’t matter as the Rams hung on to win it.
The team now turns its attention to the postseason, which tips off March 16.
“We’re gonna plan the next 10 days in terms of how we want to do it, but making sure that our bodies are ready to compete for the playoffs [is important],” said DeAveiro.
UP NEXT: The Rams will host a home playoff game on March 16, with time and opponent to be determined.