The Laurentian Voyageurs men's basketball team could grow accustomed to hosting home playoff games.
After going almost a decade without welcoming any post-season competition to the Ben Avery Gym, the Voyageurs made it back-to-back years with first-round home-court playoff victories on Feb. 20.
A quick start paved the way this year, as Laurentian built up a 52-38 lead at the half, withstood a third-quarter challenge and eventually stopped the visiting Queen's Gaels 93-80 in one of two OUA East Division quarter-final encounters.
The contest provided the final farewell for fifth year players Jamie Weldon, Georges Serresse and Stephen Williams, with plenty of chatter swirling around the fact that Manny Pasquale is also unlikely to return for his final year at LU.
If this was to be goodbye, what a goodbye it was.
With Pasquale shooting the lights out in the first half, finishing 20 minutes of play with an equal number of points, and the athleticism of both Serresse and Nelson Yengue on display at opposite ends of the court, a packed gymnasium was brought to its feet on multiple occasions.
Pasquale finished the contest with 33 points, as all five starters hit double digits for coach Shawn Swords. Serresse (18), Alex Ratte (16), Yengue (12) and Josh Budd (11) carried the load, as the Voyageurs bench accounted for only three points, all courtesy of Weldon.
Prepared to trade basket for basket in the second half, Laurentian was challenged most fiercely midway through quarter three as the Gaels cut the margin to just nine points at 65-56.
But eight consecutive points by the homeside, including four straight free throws from Pasquale and Weldon, restored the earlier advantage, giving LU some breathing room, leading 73-58 heading to the fourth.
Baskets by Pasquale and Serresse and another free throw from Weldon increased the lead to a game-high 20, as coach Swords utilized one other timely timeout once Queen's reeled in the Voyageurs to the tune of 78-65.
By the time the final minutes were being played out, the result was inevitable as the Laurentian lads move on to face the powerful Carleton Ravens for a second straight year in second-round play.
Greg Faulkner (26) and Sukhpreet Singh (22) led the way for a very young Queen's crew, with a very bright future likely in the waiting for coach Stephan Barrie and his Gaels.
Despite hosting the game on university reading week, local basketball fans packed the Ben Avery facility, with the boisterous support surely providing a little extra edge, at various times during the game, for the Voyageurs.
The game also created an opportunity for Sudbury natives and Queen's football freshmen Emilio Frometa and Erick Lessard to provide at least some support for the visitors, taking in the playoff match during their time back home for reading week.