James Derouin will take his professional coaching experience with the BlackJacks back to the Gee-Gees for the 2022-23 season
From Aug. 11-14, the Canadian Elite Basketball League (CEBL) took over Lansdowne TD Place for championship weekend.
On Friday night, the Ottawa BlackJacks (3-7) took on the Hamilton Honey Badgers (7-3) in the second semi-final matchup of the night.
Earlier, the Scarborough Shooting Stars defeated the Niagara River Lions 93-81 to open up the CEBL Championship Weekend.
Even as the home team, the BlackJacks were the underdogs, looking to take down the first seeded Honey Badgers for a shot to battle it out with the Scarborough Shooting Stars for the league title.
For BlackJacks Interim Head Coach, James Derouin — who has also been the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees men’s basketball coach since 2010, and most winningest coach in program history — this was his first professional basketball playoff coaching experience.
The Ottawa BlackJacks team had been here before though. In the 2021 season, the BlackJacks upset the Honey Badgers 96-94 in the quarter-finals before losing the semi-final to the Edmonton Stingers.
This year, Ottawa was hoping another upset was in the cards.
Ottawa started things off with a speedy three-pointer by Deng Adel.
Throughout the opening minutes, each team contributed a fair amount of errors.
With 4:40 on the clock and 10-10 on the board, Hamilton called a timeout.
Coming out of the timeout, the Honey Badgers stepped out of bounds, putting the ball in the BlackJacks hands.
They didn’t waste it, going on a seven point run to give Ottawa a 17-10 lead, and they eventually closed out the quarter up 20-12.
Hamilton knocked down a couple shots to get the second quarter started, but a pair of sunk three-pointers by Tyrell Green made the Ottawa crowd erupt.
Down 26-19, Martin Krampelj flew to the basket for a dunk, giving Honey Badgers fans something to cheer about.
With three minutes left in the half, Hamilton was in foul trouble. Some sloppy body control — including simply running into the back of an Ottawa player — led to plenty of free foul shots for the BlackJacks.
Unfortunately, Ottawa was unable to go flawless from the freethrow line.
That, and the fact that the Honey Badgers were getting comfortable from behind the arch, helped Hamilton chip away at their point deficit.
Ottawa managed to maintain the lead, ending the half at 37-34.
For the BlackJacks, Zena Edosomwan, Tyrell Tate, and Green were leading in points. Usual leaders Walt Lemon Jr. and Deng Adel were quieter than expected, only contributing three points each.
The CEBL treated us to a chill halftime performance, welcoming Swisha T to center court. Following the rapper’s performance, the CEBL Dance Pack took over.
To win the game, Ottawa needed to stay physical, lock down on defence, and keep the Honey Badgers shooters cool.
The Honey Badgers were super not cool.
Koby McEwen stepped up for Hamilton, adding back to back baskets to the score and tying things up at 41. Christian Vital and Aaron Best also started heating up for the Honey Badgers squad.
All of the sudden, it was a spicy ball game.
Ottawa fans spent a lot of the third quarter on their feet as the game went back and forth. Plenty of whistles resulted in turnovers both ways.
The Honey Badgers had reclaimed the lead by the end of the third quarter.
With 57-55 on the scoreboard, the BlackJacks had ten minutes to regain control.
It took a moment to get points on the board, but a late whistle against Ottawa led to Best stepping up to the freethrow line for the Honey Badgers. Both shots were clean, but only moments later, the Honey Badgers committed a shooting foul of their own. On the line, Adel went one for two.
While Hamilton was cashing in on easy layups, the BlackJacks were missing shots from literally every part of the court.
At the five minute mark, Adel decided to clean things up, draining a three for Ottawa.
At Elam Ending time, the score was 67-62 in favour of the Honey Badgers, making it a game to 76.
Hamilton put two up first, but back-to-back flawless and-one plays followed by a huge block had definitely made things look phenomenal for Ottawa.
The Honey Badgers refused to give things up easily, knocking down a three-pointer to put BlackJacks fans back in their seats.
Another three-point bomb came quickly after as Best put the Honey Badgers up 75-70.
Lemon Jr. layed it in for Ottawa, but on the other end of the court, his defensive attempt was deemed a foul, sending the Honey Badgers to the free-throw line.
It was Caleb Agada with the ball in his hand, and his foot on the line. Two shots, only one point needed to end it. One point away from the championship game.
Agada had yet to see the free-throw line this game, but one might credit the first shot bouncing off the front of the rim to nerves. Agada was playing against a familiar crowd, and his former coach.
The former Gee-Gee had one more chance to secure the Honey Badgers a spot in the championship game.
This time, he made it.
“Not to be corny, but if it had to be somebody I’m glad it was Caleb. I’ll be cheering for him in the finals,” Derouin said. “[He’s] a Canadian kid who played in university, and played 19 or 20 games this year, Canadian Player of the Year, I’m proud of everything that he’s accomplished.”
Ottawa’s Edosomwan ended the game with a double double, recording 14 points and 10 rebounds. Adel and Tate each added 13 points to the BlackJacks final score.
“Obviously this wasn’t the result we wanted tonight, it was a tough one,” Edosomwan said.
Derouin pointed out some issues the Ottawa team faced.
“I think 5/26 from three kind of jumps off the page a little there… Certainly throughout the game we had some great looks we couldn’t knock down,” Derouin said. “We struggled with the post… They were able to really find the weak side rebound on well defended possession.”
For the BlackJacks, that’s the end of the road. Now they’ll look ahead to improve as a team for the 2023 season. The organization has some decisions to make, including whether or not Derouin will officially stay on as head coach.
Derouin’s focus will now shift entirely to the Gee-Gees, but his experience coaching the BlackJacks is sure to help the U of O team in the coming season.
“Being around these high level guys and seeing their buy-in to me coming in here, I’m not going to put up with a whole lot from our Ottawa [university] guys who might second guess the way things are being done with our program,” Derouin explained. “These guys are phenomenal, professional players, their buy-in made it easy for me.”
The final game of the season is on Sunday Aug. 14 at 4 p.m. where the Honey Badgers will meet the Scarborough Shooting Stars in the championship game.