Sports

Mackenzie Morrison had a great night on the board, in addition to being honoured in his final season at the U of O. Photo: Parker Townes.

 U of O finishes regular season on a high note

The University of Ottawa Gee-Gees were having a strong season, until a five-game stretch versus teams like Ryerson, Carleton, Queen’s, and York, that produced just one victory. With playoffs fast approaching, the team was in need of a win.

On Friday, Feb.16, the Laurentian Voyageurs came to town, and the U of O played like a team out to prove something. With a 103-73 victory, the Gee-Gees got what they needed.

Rookie of the year candidate Guillaume Pépin had a fantastic performance with 21 points and seven rebounds. Gees head coach James Derouin said he felt “the offence was cooking” as they hit the 100-point mark for the third game this season.

The Garnet and Grey wanted to continue that momentum before playoffs—grabbing another win versus the Nipissing Lakers the next night.

Things didn’t go entirely according to plan early on, as the hometown boys found themselves down 22-14 at the end of the first quarter. Strong defence and some timely three-pointers from Gage Sabean and Mackenzie Morrison helped the team react during the following quarter, and they went into halftime up 43-33.

“I thought we responded well with the defence. I thought we cranked it up, and got our offence going on the transition a little bit,” Derouin said. “I thought the energy on the bench was great too.”

The third quarter opened up with more of the same for the U of O. Some more threes from Sabean set the tone for the rest of the game. The third quarter saw the dominance continue, with the Gee-Gees holding a 64-44 lead over their visitors.

In the fourth and final quarter, the Gees put things in cruise control, but U of O rookie point guard Kevin Civil shone with multiple threes of his own. The combined effort vaulted them to a 78-56 win.

Derouin said he felt the back-to-back wins came at a crucial time, and was pleased with his team’s performance over the weekend, saying “it’s about the energy and the response.”

“Last weekend was one of the toughest for the team, and to respond the way we did says a lot about ourselves and this group,” Derouin said.

The big win was made even more special in light of the celebration for three of the team’s leaders on seniors’ night.

Brandon Robinson, Andrew DeGroot, and Morrison are all playing in their last season of U Sports basketball.

Morrison was particularly noticeable against Nipissing, making his senior night a memorable one, coming away with a team-high 17 points and seven rebounds. Afterwards, he took some time to reflect on his days as a Gee-Gee.

“It’s flown by in a blink of an eye,” the six-foot-five forward from Barrie, Ont. said. “I remember like yesterday (Johnny Berhanemeskel) and (Gabriel Gonthier-Dubue’s) senior night five years ago, and I was saying that time isn’t going to come for a while for me. Now it’s here and it’s been just a surreal experience.”

Derouin, head coach of the team across all of the seniors’ careers, had glowing words for his veterans and their contributions to his program.

“They’ve had a great run, and have stayed (nationally) ranked the whole time,” Derouin said.

“Those three guys are three of the most loyal guys to the program. None of them wavered through their own or the team’s own ups and downs, and that’s what makes those three special.”

Derouin hopes his trio of veterans will help the team throughout their playoff quest as well. That quest begins this Wednesday, Feb. 20. A tough York Lions team—whom the Gees lost to earlier in the season— is coming to Ottawa. However, the last time the Lions came to Montpetit Hall, the Gees handed them a 92-58 thrashing. Grab tickets to that action here.