Top Seeded Takedown - Gryphons upset Lancers!

Monday, February 5, 2007

Written by Stephen Sweet

Nick Pankerichan scored a team-high 21 points and Duncan Milne added 11 rebounds as the University of Guelph Gryphons upset the Windsor Lancers 81-69. The Gryphons were behind for most of the first half, and part of the second, but three consecutive baskets by Pankerichan put them ahead to stay. This win improves Guelph’s record to 4-4 at the “Mitch” with 4 of their 6 remaining games to be played at home as well.

The game started off pretty evenly, with Windsor pulling into a 6-point lead after the first few minutes, but the Gryphons pulled even by the 8-minute mark. Then Windsor’s speed started to take over, as Detroit native Corey Boswell deftly moved the ball around for the Lancers. The most frequent recipient of his ball was Ryan Steer, who seemed like he could score from everywhere. Steer hit a couple of three-pointers before challenging near the hoop and, despite only standing 5”11, he consistently got above the taller defenders to put the ball in the basket. His lay-ups, part of his 16 points in the first half, led to a 9-0 run for Windsor, putting the Lancers well into the lead.

After dropping behind, the Gryphons began to take more chances, and it seemed to pay off. Borko Popic and Duncan Milne entered the game, and breathed new life into the Gryphons like a dynamic duo. Hitting the wood, Popic scored mainly from the outside, while Milne picked up the rebounds of the shots that Popic missed. Popic’s best moment of the first half came right at the end, when he threw up – and sunk – a 3-pointer at the buzzer to bring the Gryphons to within 4 and a halftime score of 40-36.

In second half, the big difference came when the Gryphons started to turn up the tempo, which a tired Lancers squad could not match. Steer wasn’t getting nearly as many opportunities after being fiercely marked by Guelph’s Charles Agyemang. Pankerichan and Milne took turns putting points on the board, as the Gryphons went on a 10-1 run to give the Gryphons a 52-46 lead. From there on, they just played their own game, aided by the fact that Windsor stopped making their own shots.

The Lancers brought the game back to within 3 points when Milne had arguably his best 90 seconds of the season by blocking a Greg Surmacz shot, recovering the ball, and sending it back up the court. Twenty seconds later, it was Milne who put in a rebound to extend the Guelph lead, while the next two defensive stands involved another Milne block. The next time, when the Lancers were smart enough to keep the ball away from the 6”8 Calgary native, the ball was picked off, and the Gryphons took over. A pass inside to a streaking Milne led to an emphatic slam dunk and a 7-point Gryphon lead.

From there on in, the Gryphons never looked back. The Lancers began to foul the Guelph players in order to try and take over possession, but the Gryphons stuck to their guns, and thanks to shooting almost 66 per cent from the free throw line, the Lancers never got the chance to get back into it. Every time it seemed as though they were starting to regain their previous form, the Gryphons would pull off a play to shut them down. With just over 3 minutes to go, two Lancer defenders attempted to steal the ball from Nick Pankerichan, who went right through both of them and fed a pass to Popic. Popic drained another buzzer beating shot, this one as the shot clock expired, to put the Gryphons ahead by 10. The Gryphons would cruise from there on into an 81-69 victory.

With this win, the Gryphons improved to 7-9 on the season, and are currently tied for 5th place in the OUA West division. With the top 6 teams from each division making the playoffs, it is important that the Gryphons continue to pull out the wins. While they are only a couple of wins away from getting home court advantage in the first round, they’re also only a couple of losses away from missing the playoffs entirely, so their last 6 games will be very important. However, if they play like they did on Wednesday night, they can play with anyone in the division.

Here is the game’s MVP and runner-up according to me:

Runner-up: Nick Pankerichan, Guelph, 21 points – Pankerichan was the only player to play all 40 minutes, a sign of how important he is to this team. Pankerichan was the sparkplug that got things going and kept them going for the Gryphons all night long.

Game MVP: Duncan Milne, Guelph, 15 points, 11 rebounds – Milne started the game slowly but picked up as he went along, coming off the bench to make a real impact. Milne was influential in the second half on both ends of the court, and may have had the game’s turning point when he blocked a shot and had a dunk in the same minute. With play like this, he’ll likely see more than 23 minutes of action next time.

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