Poor free-throws and a lack of bench scoring result in two losses to close out the season
The University of Ottawa men’s basketball team competed in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) final four tournament on March 3 and 4. They needed a top-three finish for a chance at the U Sports national championship. Unfortunately, the Gee-Gees would come up a little short, and ended their otherwise fantastic season with two tough losses and a fourth-place finish in the league.
On Friday, March 3, the Gees faced off in an OUA semi-final game against the nationally second-ranked Ryerson Rams. The Gees lost a heart-breaking 76–75 game that came down to the final second.
Once the ball was tipped at the opening quarter, the energy at the Raven’s Nest in Ottawa was outstanding and continued all game. Matt Plunkett was big for the Gees early in the first quarter, with two three-pointers, showing off his stroke from long-range. The Gees took an 18–15 lead into the second quarter, with help from four three-pointers.
Just before the halfway mark of the second quarter, Adam Presutti hit a big three-ball, and followed up the shot with a great defensive block to give the Gees a 30–23 lead.
The Rams came back hard in the last five minutes of the quarter, and took a 35–34 advantage going into the second half, despite Ottawa shooting an excellent 46.2 per cent from the field and 40 per cent from beyond the arc.
The second half started with both teams doing their best to try to pull away. A big three-pointer from the defensive player of the year, Caleb Agada, and a layup by Presutti gave the Gee-Gees a four-point lead.
At the end of the third quarter, the U of O led 58–53 and seemed to take control of the game. Agada continued his impressive play with eight points in the quarter.
The Gees continued to play hard with a powerful Ryerson team on the other side of the court. Agada hit a clutch three-pointer with 4:02 to play in the quarter, and gave his team a 72–66 advantage.
However, the Rams stormed back, and a clutch bucket by Juwon Grannum gave the Rams a 76–75 lead with 52 seconds to go. With mere seconds left, Brandon Robinson collected a defensive rebound, ran the floor, and put up a shot looking to draw contact, but no foul was called and the Gees lost the contest.
“Grannum hit a big shot in the corner, we decided not to foul at the end, they have very good free-throw shooters,” said head coach James Derouin. “We played it out, we got the stop that we wanted, and we got Brandon in transition, he went one on three, and honestly I thought they went straight up on the D.”
The game ended in heart-breaking fashion, and the Gees bench was visibly upset with the call.
Agada finished with 24 points to lead his team and Plunkett recorded 15 points off of five shots from downtown.
Free throws hurt the Gees, as they only made 15 out of a possible 25 from the line.
“I think Caleb got a little tired at the end, not his best game. I’m proud of those guys. They played hard,” said Derouin. “Plunkett was great from start to finish, really wanted that last one to go for him because he was excellent tonight.”
With the Friday loss, the Gees were relegated to the bronze medal game against the Brock Badgers on Saturday, March 4. Both teams were eyeing the wildcard bid to try to qualify for the U Sports National Championship.
Unfortunately, things didn’t go as planned for the Gees and they were again on the wrong end of a last second buzzer beater attempt, losing the game 69–67.
Brock came out hot, hitting their first three field goals. Pierre-Charles converted a great alley-oop to finish off the first quarter and the Gees only trailed 21–18 after the first period.
— uOttawa Gee-Gees (@uOttawaGeeGees) March 4, 2017
The Badgers took a 29–20 lead with six and a half to go off a three-pointer. A huge block by Pierre-Charles brought the crowd to their feet after a Garnet and Grey turnover.
Turnovers were an issue at the end of the second quarter, resulting in the Gees trailing 38–34 going into the second half.
Agada converted a steal into a basket to tie the game up at 40–40 with 6:27 left to play in the period. Two three-pointers in less than a minute gave the Badgers a 56–48 lead heading into the last quarter.
The Garnet and Grey clawed their way back to within two points of the Badgers in the final quarter, after Robinson hit two clutch free-throws with 33 seconds to go. Agada had a chance to tie the game with shots from the charity stripe, but could only convert one which allowed the Badgers to maintain a one-point lead.
After Brock went one for two at the line, the Gees had a chance to win or tie the game with less than 20 seconds on the clock.
Agada looked poised to take the last shot, having already drained 22 points. But he decided to pass the ball to Robinson after being pressured hard. Robinson‘s turn-around shot failed to hit rim, and the game was over.
Derouin talked about the last seconds of the game and how it played out.
“You put it in Caleb’s hands, a fifth-year senior, your best player, obviously you want him to make a play,” said Derouin. “He didn’t get the look he wanted.”
Robinson was big for the Gees on the offensive end with 14 points. Jean Emmanuel Pierre-Charles had two key blocks to help his team defensively.
For the second straight game, a lack of bench scoring hurt the Garnet and Grey as their reserves were only able to put together 11 points.
“At times we just didn’t have the energy today, but you know what, more so that was what Brock did to us. They took the energy out of us,” said Derouin.
As the clock struck zero, the Gee-Gees’ great season came to an end, the loss officially eliminating them from national tournament contention for the first time since 2012.