The uOttawa Gee-Gees accomplished something Gee-Gees nation has long desired on Saturday night. The men’s basketball team beat their long-time nemesis, the Carleton Ravens, to bring the Wilson Cup trophy and OUA championships banner back to uOttawa. It was final second heroics by Johnny Berhanemeskel that sealed the win for Ottawa as he hit a step back jumper while being fouled with 0.5 seconds remaining in the game to give uOttawa an exhilarating 78-77 victory.
“It’s honestly all a blur right now and just talking about it gives me goose bumps. Having the chance to play with these guys and experience this is the best feeling I’ve felt in my life and all I can do is smile right now,” said Berhanemeskel. “Experience is the best teacher and it finally paid off. We are grateful to share this with friends, family and alumni players who helped get to this point.”
The loss snaps a 49 game CIS winning streak for the Ravens who were also gunning for a third consecutive Wilson Cup. Prior to tonight the Gee-Gees had not defeated the Ravens since February 18, 2007 or in 18 meetings between the teams.
“Johnny is a great kid and incredible player. He has given so much to this program and there is no better player to hit that shot than him. I’m so proud of him and this team,” said Gee-Gees head coach James Derouin. “Everything is quite surreal right now. The last two times that we played them I felt that we just didn’t play very well. Today we competed very well and got the job done in the end.”
uOttawa was able to stifle OUA East Player of the Year Philip Scrubb. Scrubb he scored 13 points on 3-12 shooting and struggled to get into a rhythm. Tyson Hinz on the other hand always seems to be at his best against the Gee-Gees and Saturday night was no exception as he recorded 25 points and 10 rebounds for the double-double. Thomas Scrubb also chipped in with 21 points and four rebounds.
The Gee-Gees will now shift their focus to the CIS Final Eight national championship which in will be held in Ottawa next weekend, March 7-9. Seedings for the tournament will be announced by the CIS on Sunday evening. Tickets for CIS Final Eight will be on sale on uOttawa campus as of 12 p.m. on Monday.
The Gee-Gees stunned the Ravens in the early going as they started the game scorching hot from long range, shooting 5-8 from beyond the arc in the first quarter which allowed them to start the first frame on an 18-13 run. Ottawa appeared more composed than in the past meetings against the top-ranked Ravens, getting the hard start they wanted to the game. The score was 24-22 in favour of the Gee-Gees after ten minutes.
The Ravens tied the game up for the first time at the 7:03 minute mark of the second quarter and quickly took their first lead seconds later off a free throw from Kevin Churchill. Both teams continued to battle for the rest of the quarter in what was shaping up to be defensive game. The Ravens were able to take a slight edge into the halftime break as the score was 40-35 after two quarters.
The Gee-Gees were out-rebounded 21-12 in the first half and began to feel the effect of allowing too many second chance baskets as they fell behind by 10 to start the second half. After a timeout by James Derouin, the team appeared to get a much needed spark as they came up with two big steals and conversation in transition to bring the score to within two.
Terry Thomas came out of the halftime break clutching his hand in discomfort but seemed to be in full form as he gave the Gee-Gees a one point lead thanks to a three-point bomb. The Ravens came firing back but uOttawa was able to stay within striking distance as they trailed by 62-56 heading into the final quarter.
Things intensified in the final minutes of the fourth quarter when uOttawa went on a 10-2 run to come within one point of Carleton with 1:05 remaining in the contest.
Johnny Berhanemeskel proved why he is a leader on this Gee-Gees squad as he hit two consecutive shots from long range followed by a bucket in the paint. Following a Caleb Agada steal the Gee-Gees came up the floor and took a 76-75 lead with 22.0 seconds remaining thanks to a Gabriel Gonthier-Dubue hook shot.
As everyone would expect the Ravens did not go down without a fight. Tyson Hinz was able to lay in his signature turnaround hook shot to re-take a one point lead. On the following possession the Gee-Gees inbounded the ball in the offensive end where Berhanemeskel charged the paint on his strong hand, put on the brakes and drained the biggest shot of his career, writing a new page in the history books.
Berhanemeskel was brilliant throughout the game, leading the way with a game high 30 points, four assists, and four rebounds. Terry Thomas and Gabriel Gonthier-Dubue also chipped in with 17 and 12. “Tonight we saw the game in a new way. We got together as a team and promised ourselves that we would go out there and play our game. That really helped us tonight and the result shows it,” said Gonthier-Dubue.
The McMaster Marauders were named bronze medallists in the tournament as they took a thrilling overtime victory against the Windsor Lancers. Josh Collins was instrumental for the Lancers, hitting two free throws with 0.7 remaining in the game to tie it up at 81 and extend the game to overtime. His efforts were wasted however as the Lancers were unable to finish the job in the overtime period.
Taylor Black, McMaster’s star center and OUA First Team all-star struggled greatly in both games in the tournament scoring only five points on 2-17 shooting over the weekend. Trevon McNeil and Leon Alexander came up big for the Marauders, scoring 23 and 21 respectively. With the win the Marauders have assured their participation in next weekend’s Final Eight tournament.
1st 2nd 3rd 4th Total
uOttawa 24 11 21 22 78
Carleton 22 18 22 15 77