Each basketball game contains hundreds of little moments. Guys pick each other up off the ground, high five each other on the bench, come together to regroup. When those moments are making up one of the biggest games of your career – a game that makes history – how well do you remember those moments? Johnny Berhanemeskel, Gabriel Gonthier-Dubue, and James Derouin reflect on some of the moments on March 2, 2014 when Ottawa won Wilson.
Late in the fourth quarter, Carleton led 75-65. “At one point, losing has limits,” says Gonthier-Dubue. “I couldn't look in the mirror after the game and realize that I didn't give my everything, so I decided to play as hard as I could because I knew that we were better than them and could win the game.”
The fourth-year centre who had never beaten the Ravens proceeded to get an offensive rebound putback and sink a jumper to pull Ottawa to 75-72. He would hit another with 22 seconds remaining to give Ottawa the lead at 76-75.
Swiftly and with cruel efficiency, Carleton’s Tyson Hinz scored to make it 77-76. With the teams in timeout, the Sportsnet television cameras clearly captured James Derouin mapping out the play that would win the game.
“I remember we went into the timeout and coach made sure we were all calm and collected knowing we still had a chance to win the game,” says Berhanemeskel. “It was intense because we has just come back from being down 10 points and didn't want to let it slip away. We still had one last chance, so coach just put us all in a good position and he put me in a good spot to hit the shot.”
“I remember that timeout very clearly for some reason. It was one of those moments when you just had a feeling something big was going to happen,” says Derouin.
The Gee-Gees stepped to the court and executed their play, putting the ball in the hands of Berhanemeskel. After a quick dribble to the right, he smoothly crosses to the left and gets to the free throw line where he elevates and hits a fading jumper while getting fouled. Amid the roar, there is a whistle but no one hears it.
“At first I thought the game was over when I saw the crowd running on the court. Even though they added time on the clock, I knew right away that play sealed the game,” says Gonthier-Dubue, who was the first to run to pick Berhanemeskel up off the floor before he was mobbed by team mates.
“It was a bit of an outer-body experience, there was a lot of energy and emotion in the gym. Everyone was fired up,” remembers Berhanemeskel, who showed an uncharacteristic but absolutely merited measure of bravado during the melee of players and fans storming the court.
“I was just trying to get everyone off the floor,” says Derouin, who saw his bench explode onto the court and scramble to return just as quickly. “And hoping that the officials weren't going to overreact. Everyone thought the game was over.”
Then, an odd moment. Berhanemeskel stepped to the free throw line to shoot his and-one, and was instructed to finish the .5 seconds off the clock by missing. The best shooter in uOttawa history doesn’t know how to miss. The drama was heightened once more when Carleton got an inbounds chance for a final play.
“Not what I was expecting,” laughs Derouin. “Johnny is such a good shooter. I probably will never do that again. But with Carleton and the run they have been on you never want to give them another chance even 0.5 seconds.”
It was Gonthier-Dubue back covering the touchdown pass on Carleton’s inbound play. He did his job, and the Gee-Gees stormed the court for real.
“It was incredible to see all our supporters, alumni and former team mates celebrate with us in the middle of the court,” remembers Gonthier-Dubue, who as co-captain with Berhanemeskel was presented with the trophy. “Grabbing and kissing the trophy was definitively a moment that I will never forget.”
“After the game, the court was flooded with former Gee-Gees,” notes Derouin. “It was as if they knew something special was about to happen. Guys had made the drive from Ottawa and others from the Toronto area. That to me is very special. Everyone felt a part of the win.”
One particular alumnus had a special imprint on the night. In the locker room, the team gathered with the trophy. Assistant coach Clarence Porter, who had raised the Wilson Cup as a Gee-Gee player in 1992-93, smiled wide and said to Wilson, “I missed you!” And then everything was a bit of a blur.
After 21 years the Wilson Cup lives in the Gee-Gees locker room at Montpetit Hall. The players and staff see it on a daily basis. “Looking at the Wilson Cup, it's a reminder of how rewarding that game was and how far our team has come in the past couple years. We might be able to enjoy it more in a couple years, but right now it's time to get back to work,” says Berhanemeskel.
“When I see it I'm thinking about all the work we put in and the sacrifices we made to achieve this goal, but in my mind I'm also seeing an empty spot beside the Wilson Cup where we can place the McGee Trophy,” adds Gonthier-Dubue.