Amidst the slew of pre-season basketball tournaments, the University of Ottawa took on the annual competition at the Jack Donohue Tournament from Oct. 21-23. This year showed off a shining start for the Gee-Gees men’s team.
Four teams were scheduled to compete at Montpetit Hall, but the competition got lighter after the Worcester Polytechnic Institute of Worcester, Mass., dropped out due to the Ottawa shootings on Oct. 22. The Gee-Gees faced the Bishop’s Gaiters and the Toronto Varsity Blues.
In the Gees’ first match they took on a Bishop’s team that finished second in the Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec (RSEQ) last season with a 9-7 record.
The Gee-Gees jumped to an early lead in the first quarter, but fouls and mistakes gave the Gaiters an opportunity to catch up. Getting behind the shooting of forward Caleb Agada and fifth-year senior guard Johnny Berhanemeskel, the Gees were able to keep Bishop’s at bay. Strong defensive leadership from Gabriel Gonthier-Dubue enabled the team to toughen up and come away with an 80-66 victory.
Despite the win, Gee-Gees head coach James Derouin wasn’t pleased with the way his team played.
“They got in our face, they defended the ball well. They did a lot of things that exposed some of our weaknesses tonight,” he said of the Gaiters.
“It doesn’t do a lot for us to play teams that we’re just going to run over, and I thought they competed … It’s good tape to watch. I’m not happy with our performance, but I’ll take a good game to watch.”
The first night of the tournament, the Varsity Blues also beat out the Gaiters in a close game of 97-91. Both the U of O and Toronto moved on to play in the final game to decide the champion. The U of T struggled last year with just four wins all season.
The Gees had no problem getting after them early and often, practically shooting the Blues out of the gym. Third-year Matt Plunkett was on fire from three-point range, which helped raise the team’s existing high of 21 points off the bench.
Gee-Gees point guard Mike L’Africain was also in mid-season form, dishing the ball around and showing his scoring touch, just like last year.
After the onslaught was over, the Gees came away with a 101-60 victory and a second consecutive Jack Donahue championship.
Gonthier-Dubue and Plunkett were both named all-stars and Caleb Agada was crowned the tournament MVP.
“We knew we could beat both teams,” Agada said after the Toronto win. “We were just trying to get better overall and I think we did that.”
He added: “I had a lot of turnovers this game and that really bugs me, but I played OK today and over the weekend. I definitely could’ve done more.”
The Gee-Gees officially open their season against McMaster at Montpetit on Nov. 7.