CIS finals debut comes up just short of championship title against reigning Carleton Ravens
A historic season for the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees men’s basketball team came to a close March 9.
Pitted against their archrivals the Carleton Ravens in the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) final, the Gees came up just short, losing by 12 points with a final score of 79–67.
There’s no shame in a hard-fought loss, and the Gee-Gees certainly did not go down without a fight. The thrilling game was incredibly close until late in the fourth quarter when Carleton pulled away.
The Gees were led by Johnny Berhanemeskel (19 points, five assists), Caleb Agada (15 points, five rebounds) and Terry Thomas (14 points, seven rebounds). Foul troubles and difficulties in execution ultimately led to the Gee-Gees’ demise.
Carleton’s stars were on display with forward Tyson Hinz scoring 30 points and grabbing six rebounds. Hinz would go on to be the MVP of the tournament.
The silver medal marks the highest finish for the men’s basketball team in U of O history.
But the W.P. McGee Trophy will stay perched in the Ravens’ Nest at Carleton University for the time being, now the 10th time Carleton has won the title.
There was never a dull moment in the gold medal match. Both teams were nationally ranked the entire season, and each team had a long bench and an amazing coaching staff to bring them this far. The game remained remarkably close until the final minutes, when the Ravens ultimately overcame the Gees.
Ottawa came into the game with plenty of energy from all starters and showed a patient and impressive first quarter. Agada brought his passion in the first as he opened the game with a knockdown three. Thomas and Berhanemeskel matched his intensity with drives to the net and constant threes.
To begin the second quarter, the Gee-Gees had an 8–0 run and forced the Ravens to take a timeout. Ottawa continuously moved the ball around and found the open shot. Carleton came back into the game with their key player Hinz getting to the line a number of times.
As much as Agada and Berhanemeskel kept Ottawa in the game with their offence, the Gee-Gees’ defenders failed to get the job done against the likes of Hinz and the Scrubb brothers, Thomas and Philip, who didn’t miss a bucket in the fourth. The Ravens pulled away with five minutes left in the fourth quarter, maintained their lead, and won the game.
The exciting finale came after the Gee-Gees made history by defeating the Victoria Vikes in the semi-final on March 8 with a score of 78–70.
The Vikes were the number one defensive team in the country, so the Gees had to give credit to their opponents; the University of Victoria was the best possible team to play before the Ravens.
Gees’ fourth-year Gabriel Gonthier-Dubue said after Saturday’s game they would “go in with a chip on our shoulder and give everything that we got” to win the championship.
“We stuck together all year long, we got Terry (Thomas) in the second half of the season, that really helped a lot,” said Gonthier-Dubue, who was named MVP of the semi-final game. “He’s the guy with really good intensity, that’s our advantage.”
Second-year Matt Nelson said the team sticks together, and that’s what helped them get so far this season.
“Obviously we’re a big family, that’s why we’ve gotten this far,” said Nelson.
“The guys on the bench were supporting and loud. The guys on the floor can hear us and know we got their full support. That makes them more confident on the court.”
The national run all started with a 94–73 victory over the eighth-seeded wildcard Saskatchewan Huskies in the quarterfinal on March 7.
It was a tale of two games for the Gee-Gees, as the first half showcased the Huskies’ fight as well as some jitters from the Gees, while the second was the complete reverse. There was only a three-point difference at halftime, followed by the Huskies taking the lead before the game turned back into the hands of the Gee-Gees. After the flipped lead, there was no looking back with a massive 27–14 fourth quarter from the Gees to close out the game.
Thomas was deemed the player of the game with an impressive 24 points, nine rebounds, five steals, and three assists, while Berhanemeskel added 20 points and seven assists on the night.
“It was really fun to be a part of,” said third-year forward Vikas Gill. “This was step one of our three-step goal, so it felt good to get step one done.”
The Gee-Gees will look to top this year’s showing with hopes of winning gold at next year’s national championship hosted by Ryerson University.