Gee-Gees win OUA bronze after stunning loss to Windsor in semis
Photo credit: Marta Kierkus & Remi Yuan
A state of shock befell screaming fans at Montpetit Hall as the seconds ticked away in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) men’s basketball quarterfinal
Usually the Gee-Gees’ losses only come at the hands of their familiar foes the Carleton Ravens, but this time it was different.
The Windsor Lancers have been the fifth-ranked team in the country for most of the season, but people began to pay closer attention when they handed the Ravens a loss in late January. The Lancers upset higher-ranked McMaster in the first round of the playoffs leading into their matchup with the Gee-Gees.
The Wilson Cup Final Four transformed Montpetit Hall into an energetic decked-out environment, as hopes of securing a second trophy filled the air.
That excitement was diminished as Windsor out-rebounded and overpowered the Gee-Gees, stealing an 85-80 win from the top-ranked team.
Sadness and frustration was the tone immediately after the loss. Gees point guard Mike L’Africain put it simply, only saying “we need to be better.”
After Ryerson played a close game and nearly defeated the Ravens, the Gee-Gees would get their opportunity to be better and punch their ticket to nationals with a statement.
The Gee-Gees came into Saturday’s game against the Rams with an unbreakable focus. They made sure their seniors Johnny Berhanemeskel and Gabriel Gonthier-Dubue would not step off the floor at Montpetit for the last time empty-handed.
The third-ranked team in the nation played the Gee-Gees close until the third quarter when Berhanemeskel showed everyone why he should be the country’s player of the year as he poured in 13 straight points, completely taking over the game.
The shooting guard’s efforts would not go without assistance as the team tightened defensively and became increasingly efficient on the offensive end. Before long, the Rams could no longer stay close and succumbed to a score of 79-66.
Berhanemeskel finished with a staggering 39 points, six rebounds, and two steals. The Gees’ second leading performer was Gonthier-Dubue with 11 points and six rebounds, as the program’s leaders walked off to standing ovations.
“The focus of our motivation was the fact that it was Gab and Johnny’s last game here tonight,” said head coach James Derouin. “What those two guys have done for our program and for our school can’t be measured.”
Berhanemeskel spoke of the feeling of closing out his chapter at the U of O before attempting to win a national championship.
“I got goosebumps. I just wanted to make sure it was a perfect day today, especially after how last night ended,” said Berhanemeskel. “I woke up at five o’clock in the morning, I thought yesterday was a dream, I didn’t even believe what happened.
“It was a tough night, but I got to reflect on it and made sure that didn’t happen today.”
The Gee-Gees gained a berth into the Final Eight hosted by Ryerson, to compete as the third seed. Their path back to the national championship final will go through Bishop’s in the first round on Thursday, March 12, followed by either Windsor or Ryerson, and potentially Carleton again in the final.
“We need to come out and fight,” said third-year Caleb Agada. “Everybody wants to beat us, and we have the biggest target on our back. We have to know that and go into every game knowing that they’re coming after us.”
Sports Services will send a fan bus to Toronto for the semifinal and final games. The cost is $25 for bus and tickets, not including accommodations. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.