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photo by Mico Mazza

Men’s basketball team ends pre-season on a solid note

A ROWDY CROWD was on hand to watch the University of Ottawa’s men’s basketball team go down to the wire with some American competition on Sept. 9. A full house of 800 fans was in attendance at Montpetit Hall where the Gees put up a respectable fight against the University of California Santa Barbara Gauchos, eventually losing to the southern squad 67-65.

While a casual fan might classify Friday’s game result as a disappointment, head coach James Derouin and the team felt otherwise. The match caps off a competitive four-game pre-season against teams from the United States’ premiere post-secondary league, the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I—the Sept. 9 game being Ottawa’s best of the four.

“Moving forward, I think the big thing was that we didn’t approach the other three games with the mindset of trying to get a win—we had the mindset of getting experience and things like that. We came into this game with a plan to try to win … and we almost pulled it out,” said Derouin.

The Gees started strong, grabbing the opening tip, but the Gauchos still managed to nab the first two points of the game. Despite the American team’s starting five being comprised of senior athletes, the young Ottawa squad managed to match the Gauchos point for point during the first half, battling through personal fouls and a shooting dry spell to finish the half down by two points, 32-30.

The Gees stayed competitive throughout the third quarter, but seemed to fade early in the fourth, as the Gauchos pulled away to a 59-47 lead with eight minutes left to play. A last-minute recovery led by star fourth-year guard Warren Ward saw Ottawa close the gap in the dying minutes. Nonetheless, the team was unable to overtake the Gauchos, as the final buzzer sounded a 67-65 loss for the Garnet and Grey.

“We didn’t shoot the ball well, but we stuck with it,” said Derouin. “We had a shot at the end to tie it or send it into overtime, and against a Division I team—you can’t be too disappointed with that.”

Second-year guard Johnny Berhanemeskel was a vital part of the team’s performance, adding 16 points and four rebounds. The game also saw two solid performances from the team’s centres, third-year Seamus Ferguson and fourth-year Jordan Vig, who contributed 11 and eight points, respectively.

The team will need to keep their hunger and motivation up, as their next game won’t be for over a month.

“It’s tough. It’s a long season,” said Vig, commenting on the break. “Everybody on this team is a very good player. You turn your back and there’s somebody ready to step up if you’re having an off night. So that’s how we stay competitive.”

The team’s next game will be part of the annual Jack Donohue Tournament at Montpetit Hall, Oct. 28–30.

—Keeton Wilcock