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Men’s hoops heads West to gear up for season

Photo: Marta Kierkus

With at least 14 players returning to the team this season, the pressure is back on for Gee-Gees men’s basketball to have yet another incredible season.

Before the official season opener on Nov. 6, the Gees will partake in nine exhibition games, which will allow the team to solidify their final roster. First on the docket was a trip West, where the team set off to play three matches at the University of British Columbia (UBC) Invitational Tournament this past weekend. The team walked away with a win in all three games, making the trip a complete success.

On Oct. 2, the Gee-Gees defeated the University of Alberta Golden Bears by a score of 90-62. While the Bears placed fourth in their division and tenth in the country last season with a record of 14-6, those numbers fail to outshine the U of O’s 18-1 record.

However, with a new year comes new circumstances for the Gee-Gees, especially after the exit of star players Johnny Berhanemeskel and Gabriel Gonthier-Dubue.

Head Coach James Derouin said during preseason that their “big game is lacking without Johnny and Gab.” However, the team’s performance in the tournament showed him that he might not need to make many adjustments this year.

Although the Gees held the lead against the Bears in every quarter, the team truly surged after halftime. Star guard Caleb Agada and Carleton transfer Brody Maracle spearheaded the team’s offence with 24- and 12-point efforts, respectively. The team stretched to a 30-point lead in the last minute of play, closing out the dominant win.

The next day, the Gee-Gees played the host UBC Thunderbirds, who introduced eight new players to their roster this year. Despite what would seem like an easy win for the Gees, they struggled to gain any kind of lead throughout the game. The Thunderbirds, coming off a win the day before, were able to handle the pressure from an experienced Gee-Gees squad.

With three and a half  minutes left in the fourth quarter, down by seven points, Agada made a free throw which lead to a final scoring burst including two three-pointers and four consecutive foul shots—propelling Ottawa to a 84-77 win.

Fifth-year point guard Mike L’Africain scored a solid 23 points, Agada was just behind with 15, Maracle stood with 9 rebounds and 11 points.

The Gee-Gees quickly learned from their struggles as they went on to face their last opponents, the University of Northern British Columbia Timberwolves, on Oct. 4. The Timberwolves finished second in the Canada West Explorer division last season with a 12-8 record.

The Gees showed no difficulty in holding the lead this time around, coming in strong from the tip. Sophomore guard Brandon Robinson and L’Africain propelled the Gee-Gees to a final win by a score of 105-72.

L’Africain continues to be a great leader for the team, putting up 20 points and five assists in the tournament, while Robinson’s maturity is showing with a 16-point effort over the weekend.

Starting Oct. 9, the Gee-Gees will face three new teams at the Queen’s Invitational Tournament. Following that, the team will then host the Jack Donohue Tip Off Tournament at Montpetit Hall during reading week Oct. 30–Nov 1.