By Stephen Sedgwick-Williams
Keeping their undefeated status from the preseason, the Thunder won their home opener over the George Brown Huskies 89-60 on Oct. 26.
“George Brown was one of the top teams last year and they got a bunch of good recruits,” said head coach Trevor Costello. “They’re a tough team. But we prevailed.”
The team then continued their winning streak, beating the Durham Lords 93-75 on Nov. 1.
“We won by double digits but they were missing their best player,” said Costello. “So I thought we should have done a better job defensively.”
Algonquin then took home yet another victory against the Fleming Knights, with the game ending at 115-42.
“They were over-matched, the other team,” said Costello. “Just over-matched in every position. They didn’t really have any big guys.”
Coach Costello stated that the team would have to focus on practicing defense. “Defensively, we’ve got to do a better job,” he said. “Offensively, we can get any shot we want, any time.”
The Thunder were powered by guard Njuguna Waiganjo, leading the scoreboard during the home opener with 23 points and guard Derrek Mooney following behind with 17.
The fourth quarter of that game saw the pace slow in terms of scores, but not due to lack of trying. The Huskies had a number of shots at the hoop, but just couldn’t seem to get their points.
The game started off close with the Huskies neck-and-neck with the Thunder, but Algonquin took the definitive lead in the second and third quarter which ended at 72-42 for the home team. Their continued effort created a gap between the teams that the Huskies couldn’t seem to close.
“It was a nice win, said Costello. “We started off, we didn’t look really good at the beginning and things started clicking and we had a couple of good quarters. At the end though, we let up. And it doesn’t matter what we’re up: we’ve still got to play hard the whole time and I’m not happy with how we finished it.”
Despite the high number of points, Waiganjo did not believe that the team played to their full potential.
“I feel like we didn’t win the right way,” he said. “We were relying too much on our talents and lucky bounces that we got, but I’m still not happy or pleased with our level of play because I know what these guys can do and you guys haven’t yet seen the potential yet as a team.”
Guard Haidar El Badry was more upbeat about the outcome.
“Our team came out to play, we started off a little rough but after a while we got into it,” said El Badry. “Intensity came up, we got motivated in the game, hit all our shots.”
Regardless of the outcome, the audience came out in full force to support their teams and cheer them on for the first game of the season.
As the regular season home opener, the energy was high enough to be felt in the gym as cheers and chants not only came from the team’s bench, but from the crowd as well who drowned out the rest of the room after some impressive scores.
“It was a nice crowd tonight, it was nice to see lots of people,” said Costello. “Hopefully the season will be kind of like tonight.”
The women’s team also knocked down the opposition, beating the Fleming Knights 99-37 on Nov. 2 to cap off a two-game road trip.
They also beat the Durham Lords, 57-45, on Nov. 1. The low-scoring match, accentuated by Algonquin’s 26 offensive boards and 29 takeaways, tied into what head coach John MacInnis had been preaching to the team: tight defence.
“To be a championship team, you have to be locked down defensively,” he said. “It’s not always the most glamorous part of game, but all of our success over the past three seasons has been based on our commitment and buying into defence.”
The coach singled out new guard Kim Cupid and last season’s rookie of the year, Lindsay Whittaker, as two players who have enjoyed a strong start to the season.
Last year’s team went undefeated before bowing out in the national championships. But MacInnis warned that the past isn’t at the forefront of the team’s mind.
“We don’t really talk about the past that much,” he said.