Loss to Ravens in semis, statement win over Lancers proves Gees are still a force
Entering the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) Wilson Cup Final Four in Toronto, the Gee-Gees men’s basketball team had good reason to be optimistic.
A less than ideal meeting with bitter rival Carleton Ravens in the semifinal was not as daunting this year after beating them twice in the regular season.
Ryerson eked out a win against the Gee-Gees in their one matchup earlier this year, but it was without Ottawa star Caleb Agada. The Gees had also handily beaten the Windsor Lancers in November.
On March 11, the Gee-Gees found out how hard it is to beat the Ravens three times in one year.
The lack of excitement on both sides rivaled that of last year’s national final. From the opening tip, both teams didn’t execute well and the Ravens simply won the war of attrition.
OUA Player of the Year, Gee-Gees fifth-year point guard Mike L’Africain was ice cold from the field and a complete lack of offensive flow stifled the Gees’ hopes of building a lead.
In the 82-74 loss, the Gee-Gees stayed within 10 points at halftime, but let Carleton’s lead grow to 22 in the third quarter.
While both teams didn’t shoot particularly well, the Ravens were more efficient and veterans Conner Wood and Gavin Resch led their team in the win.
In the fourth quarter, the Gee-Gees started to stage a comeback, but it was too little, too late.
Fourth-year forwards Agada and Nathan McCarthy led the Gee-Gees’ effort, with Agada scoring 22 points and McCarthy adding 14.
McCarthy fights for the ball before driving to the hoop. Photo: Tyler Treasure.
Gee-Gees head coach James Derouin spoke on the disappointment in the loss, but the optimism going forward.
“You lose the right to play for the Wilson Cup, and that’s why you’re here,” he said. “Ultimately it resets next weekend anyways, the goal is to get to nationals and we have to start to play a little bit better.”
For the players, the confidence of two regular season wins over the Ravens may have affected their preparation going into the game.
“We can’t take anything for granted,” said Agada. “We came in with our heads and our egos a little too big and they took advantage of it… we got really comfortable and they were ready to kill.”
For the Ravens, finally cracking the code on this version of the Gee-Gees gave the team validation that they could make a push to another national title.
“I feel like this win is just a bonus because it’s Ottawa, but we’re focusing on winning nationals, that’s our goal,” said Wood, the fourth-year Ravens guard.
With the loss, the Gees were forced into a win-and-you’re-in situation in the bronze medal game. Similar to last season, the Gees fell in the semifinals, won the bronze, and earned the at-large berth to the Canadian Interuniversity Sport Final 8 tournament.
The top-seeded Ryerson Rams defeated the Windsor Lancers, giving the Gee-Gees their opponent in the bronze medal game.
On March 12, the Gees redeemed themselves in a gun-slinging affair with the Lancers resulting in a 90-77 win and a second consecutive OUA bronze medal.
Gord Grace, CEO of the OUA gives Mackenzie Morrison his bronze medal. Photo:Tyler Treasure.
Windsor threw a haymaker at the Gees early, but the Gees were able to weather the storm and systematically dismantle the Lancers.
Agada played one of the best games of his career, posting a baffling 23-point, 12-rebound, eight-assist, and four-seal stat line.
A key for the Gees was out-rebounding the Lancers, causing numerous second chance opportunities that led to spot-up threes.
Fourth-year forward Matt Plunkett had 16 points, 12 of which came from three-pointers.
L’Africain continued his shooting struggles, but managed to will in 11 points and pull down six rebounds.
The team played their brand of basketball much more than the previous night against Carleton. They ensured that they left no doubt to the voters determining what team received the nationals at-large berth.
“A loss like last night’s could change anybody,” said Plunkett.
“We knew our season was on the line and if we lost we might not get this wildcard… we knew we’d put ourselves in the best position if we won today. We came in with a win or go home attitude and that was the difference.”
There was a complete shift in attitudes from the teams between nights, the Gee-Gees were much more determined in playing their type of game.
“We talked about getting back to playing that way that we play,” said Derouin. “From the opening tip you saw assists, you saw ball movement, and you saw us playing together offensively and that was good to see. It’s been a while and especially against a good opponent like Windsor for us to play that way, it was great.”
The Gee-Gees received the at-large bid and advanced to the Final 8 tournament in Vancouver as the third seed. Their first game is against the sixth-seeded Dalhousie Tigers on March 17 at 6 p.m. EST. Games will be livestreamed on cis-sic.tv, with the semifinals and finals being nationally televised on Sportsnet 360.