Hamilton, ON- With the clock ticking down and the game in the balance, AY Osunde made his move.
The second-year McMaster Marauders guard had just made a skip pass to teammate Sefa Otchere for a corner three to give the Marauders a 74-72 lead over the Laurier Golden Hawks in front of a loud Burridge Gym crowd. Perhaps this was the pivotal moment in a game with its share of back-and-forth ones. Or perhaps the next one was.
Now, as the Golden Hawks were running their offence with under a minute left, Osunde made his move. As Laurier guard and leading scorer Taye Donald went around a screen, ready to drive to the basket, Osunde followed him, poking the ball from behind. It went to McMaster guard Mike Demagus as Osunde sprung up the court – where Demagus found him for the layup. Suddenly, it was 76-72 as the crowd erupted once more.
Osunde said that play came from knowing the scouting report. He knew to be physical when guarding Donald. He noticed Donald was kind of lackadaisical with the ball throughout the game.
“I just went after it, kind of gambled, got the steal and then it opened up the opportunity for the fast break, which kind of sealed the deal,” he added.
Moments later, Demagus grabbed the rebound after a missed Laurier three-point attempt as the Marauders celebrated their 77-72 victory.
It many ways, the game was an encapsulation of what they’ve been working towards.
After the loss to the Brock Badgers on Jan. 18, head coach Patrick Tatham got on his team about rebounding. The numbers were one thing: they lost the rebounding battle 50-33 in that game and 46-41 against Laurier. The fight was another.
“I thought we did a great job fighting on the glass,” Tatham said. “If we had zero fight on the glass tonight, I don’t think this game is a winnable game for us.”
Ayres Culley-Bremner had 12 boards while Khalil Miller had eight. In terms of scoring, Demagus came through with 22 points, four rebounds and four assists.
The OUA All-Star has become a reliable scorer and player for them. He showed why against Laurier, hitting different shots and getting to the free throw line (he hit 10-of-12 free throws).
Teammate Mychael Paulo credited Demagus’ aggressiveness – in diving for loose balls, going up amongst big men for rebounds, pushing the ball in transition and scoring.
“It opens up for everybody else,” Osunde added. “We just got to keep relying on him and he’s just going to keep doing his thing.”
Osunde was also making his mark. After being a backup to former OUA All-Star Jordan Henry in his first year, the Scarborough native has earned more playing time (6.6 to 17.7 minutes per game) in his second season. He’s scoring, playmaking and getting boards at a higher clip than before.
He was running the offence against Laurier, trusting with closing out a tight game. Along with the crucial assist and steal, he finished with 15 points, two steals and one block in 34 minutes.
Tatham said it’s night-and-day difference from his first to his second season. With Henry gone, Osunde seized the opportunity to play more. Tatham pointed out how he lost some weight as well.
“He’s gotten better defensively and he’s just receptive to coaching,” he added. “So it’s been really good to see his transformation this year.”
Tatham said his performance is huge a boost of confidence for Osunde. He added that the Marauders will need his ability to shoot, defend and score going forward this season.
Osunde said he’s tries to be consistent. He also tries to be hard on himself as Tatham is hard on him as he expects a lot out of him.
“I just got to hold myself accountable and just try to grow every day and develop every single day,” Osunde added. “So as the years go by – my third, my fourth, my fifth – I’m just on top of things and I can I really get to where I want to get.”
For the Marauders to get to where they went to go, it’ll also come down to accountability. It comes from the day-to-day things, according to Tatham. From how they approach practice leading into games. How they stretch and cool down after games. How they manage some tight turnarounds between games.
They play at Western on Wednesday before coming back to Hamilton and then heading on the road for a mid-afternoon game at Windsor on Saturday. The following week, they have back-to-back games against Toronto and TMU on the road as well.
“I think if guys are willing to hold each other accountable over the next…15 days, the outcome for us is going to be invaluable,” Tatham noted. “I think we make a nice little run in the playoffs and hopefully punch our ticket to nationals. That’s what we’re trying to do.”
Featured Image: Kevin Lassel/McMaster Athletics