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Last-minute heroics keeps men’s basketball session perfect

Photo credit: Remi Yuan 

In front of a sold-out crowd, the Gee-Gees men’s basketball team did something no one else has done in the regular season since November 2012: They beat the Carleton Ravens.

In the latest chapter of perhaps the best rivalry in Canadian university athletics, the nation’s top two teams clashed at Montpetit Hall on Jan. 10. The Gee-Gees have been known as the second-best team in the country for two years and finally overcame the top-ranked Ravens.

The atmosphere was reminiscent of the hallowed “tobacco road” battles between Duke University and the University of North Carolina.

There was an omnipresent tension between players as the teams went through their pre-game rituals. Warring chants from the Gee-Gees’ faithful overpowered those of the Ravens fans in attendance as the game got underway.

The game got off to a slow start as both teams’ nerves were clearly affecting their execution on the offensive end. The Gee-Gees opted to use only two of their bench players, both of whom share sixth-man duties. Forward Matt Plunkett has proven to be an elite three-point shooter, and guard Medhi Tihani is one of the only players in the country able to defend Carleton’s Philip Scrubb. Both players’ performance was essential to the longevity of the Gees’ starters in the match. After a close first quarter, the Ravens forfeited a lead they would never win back, as Gee-Gees star Johnny Berhanemeskel propelled his team to a 17-point lead. Carleton would not go down easily as they stormed back behind the performance of the double duel of Thomas Scrubb and Philip Scrubb.

The game came down to the last minute as the Ravens knotted the game at 66, leading to an offensive position led by Berhanemeskel. As time wound down, he twisted around a defender and nailed a floater to give the Gees the lead with four seconds remaining. Thomas Scrubb of the Ravens would attempt a last-second layup that missed the mark as time expired, sealing the win for Ottawa. The last-second go-ahead shot was yet another testament to Berhanemeskel’s importance to the team.

“It was a hell of a shot again. The kid is unbelievable,” said head coach James Derouin. “We’re going to see them in February (for the Capital Hoops Classic) and if it’s anything like this one it’ll be quite the crowd at Canadian Tire Centre.”

The win will make the Gee-Gees the number-one ranked team in the nation. The last time any team unseated the Ravens was when the University of British Columbia topped the list for just a week in 2012.

“It’s honouring, and a testament to hard work,” said Berhanemeskel on holding the top rank. “At the same time, it’s all about who is number one come March. We know that, and it’s all about who can find the motivation and make the adjustments to come to play.”

This season has been undoubtedly the best the Gee-Gees have had and they look to continue their run in the second stage of the season.

“These players keep making history. They are rewriting it every weekend. It’s amazing stuff. They’re doing a phenomenal job,” said Derouin.

The Gee-Gees will play against the rest of the league when they take on the Lakehead Thunderwolves on Jan. 16 at 8 p.m. in Montpetit. After that, they will take on Carleton again at the Capital Hoops Classic on Feb. 6.