Gryphs prevail over York, glad to be on home court
Rob Massey, Guelph Sports Journal
GUELPH – It was home, sweet home for the Guelph Gryphons Wednesday night.
After playing their first four games of the OUA men’s basketball season on the road, the Gryphs returned to the Guelph Gryphons Athletics Centre for their home opener and they responded with an 87-72 victory over the York Lions.
“It’s very good to be home,” Gryphon coach Chris O’Rourke said. “It’s been a rough preseason We went out to Victoria for three and we struggled. We came home and I thought we actually played well enough to win all three in the exhibition at home, but didn’t close out two of them. Then we went on the road and we shot ourselves in the foot on the free-throw line and defensively at Mac and at Windsor and, obviously, a tough weekend in Ottawa with those two teams.”
The win was the first of the regular season and second of the entire season for the Gryphs. They had gone 1-5 in the preseason with losses to Victoria, Concordia and Carleton in a tournament at Victoria and losses to New Brunswick and St. Mary’s at home. They did beat NCAA Division III’s Gwynedd Griffins at home to end the preseason, but lost regular-season games at McMaster, Windsor, Carleton and Ottawa.
Wednesday, the Gryphs grabbed the lead in the opening minute of the game and never trailed after that.
“We brought the defensive energy today,” fifth-year Gryphon Drew Walford said. “A lot of guys played with heart and we got four guys in double digits – that was pretty good.”
“Today right from the get-go the guys played hard,” O’Rourke said. “We played defensively more as a team, the identity we want to be. We just haven’t been able to do it consistently and I felt that helped feed us.”
York actually scored the first basket of the game on a jump shot by Deshawn Montaque 29 seconds into the match, but the Gryphs tied it and took the lead on a pair of dunks by Walford before the match was a minute old to bring back memories of the House of Slam in the old Mitchell Athletics Centre.
“Everyone makes fun of me for being old, but I still have the bounce,” Walford said. “We’re back.”
Guelph was up 20-15 at the end of the first quarter, 38-33 at halftime and 60-47 after three quarters thanks to a 13-point run.
Walford led the Gryphs with 22 points while Daniel Dooley had 16, Taylor Boers 12 and Banky Alade 11. Andrew Grant pulled down 10 rebounds while Walford had nine along with four assists and four steals. Jonathan Wallace had three steals, Dooley six assists and Alade three blocks.
“We went 10 deep and, defensively, we got the effort and we did the job on the glass we wanted to do and we weathered probably four or five of their runs throughout the course of the game,” O’Rourke said. “We showed some poise and execution and we played as a team and that’s what we ultimately have to do.”
York also had four players hit double digits in scoring – Brandon Ramirez with 16, Prince Kamunga 13, Chevon Brown 12 and Josiah Riley 11. Ramirez and Brown had six rebounds apiece while Brown had six assists and Kamunga had two blocks.
The Gryphs took advantage of York’s shooting woes to grab the win. The Gryphs hit 46 percent of their field goals, 32 percent of their three-pointers and 77 percent of their free throws while the Lions hit 35 percent on field goals, 28 percent of three-pointers and 67 percent on free throws.
The hosts also grabbed 49 rebounds, 14 more than York.
The Gryphs climb to 1-4 with the win while York falls to 2-2.
Next up for the Gryphs is a home match against the Ryerson Rams (2-2) Wednesday at the Guelph Gryphons Athletics Centre. Game time is 8 p.m.
“We’ve just got to keep playing defence and we’ve got to keep coming with it,” Walford said. “Every single possession we’ve got to not take it for granted. We’ve got to sprint back on defence. Coach has been drilling us and I feel like any game we play this year, we can win.”