Men’s Basketball (4-4 OUA)
Played St. Francis-Xavier (5-0 AUS) on Thursday, December 29, 2011 at 3:00 p.m. at Dalhousie, exhibition
uOttawa – Johnny Berhanemeskel 31 points, 5 rebounds; Warren Ward 12 points, 11 rebounds, 6 assists
St. F-X – Terry Thomas 19 points, 5 rebounds ; Bol Kong 13 points, 7 rebounds
The Gee-Gees pushed the second-ranked team in the country to the brink in their opening match of the Rod Shoveller exhibition tournament but were unable to fend off a late charge by the St. Francis Xavier X-Men who were able to push the game into overtime. St. F-X then outscored the Gee-Gees 11-8 in overtime for a final score of 74-71.
Ottawa led by as many as 13 midway through the third frame and Johnny Berhanemeskel turned in a tremendous fourth quarter performance at the offensive end, pouring in 31 points for the game. However, with the score 47-41 after the third quarter, the Gee-Gees were not able to put the X-Men away. St. F-X ratcheted up their defensive pressure, extending the length of the court and using that defense were able to create the transition baskets they needed to claw their way back into the game. The Gee-Gees also picked up early fouls in the fourth, giving X the opportunity to pick away at the deficit from the free throw line.
“Their pressure really bothered us and allowed them to get their confidence going,” stated a disappointed coach Derouin after the game. “We had the game at the pace we wanted defensively in the second and our offense was flowing nicely. But at the end we had a hard time executing because of their pressure.”
Ottawa was very effective on the defensive end in the first half, especially during the second quarter as they forced St. F-X to run their offense from the half court. The Gee-Gees also forced 11 turnovers in the first half. Berhanemeskel, Warren Ward, and Mike L’Africain got the offense going with a couple of nice transition baskets and effective passing to open up shots from mid-range and under the basket in the opening quarter. Berhanemeskel then used his three-point shooting to help the Gee-Gees take the lead in the second.
The sideline story of the game was the debut of Bol Kong in CIS basketball, and Kong was the difference for St. F-X in the final minutes. Ottawa’s Gabriel Gonthier-Dubue made a strong post move taking the ball to the basket with his left hand to draw a foul and complete at three point play, giving the Gee-Gees a 63-58 lead with just over a minute remaining in regulation time. With 40 seconds remaining it was Kong stepping into a three pointer from the top of the key, calmly draining the tying basket and sending the game into overtime at 63-63.
L’Africain and Berhanemeskel each hit a three-pointer from the left corner as overtime began, but the Gee-Gees were not able to contain Kong as he distributed the ball effectively and hit a key shot in the lane to extend the lead to five. Gonthier-Dubue again had a strong inside play to bring the Gee-Gees within striking distance with a put-back basket, but was unable to convert on his free-throw and St. F-X immediately had coverage on the Gee-Gees guards, forcing Jacob Gibson-Bascombe to take a last second heave which narrowly missed the rim.
“We didn’t get what we wanted out of this game. We are disappointed because although you can’t say it was a game that we should have won, we could have won it. We have to learn how to win these close games,” summed up the Gee-Gees’ head coach.
Ottawa will now play in the consolation bracket of the tournament and will next face Acadia, who dropped their opening game 78-64 to UPEI. The game is set for 1:00 p.m. on Friday afternoon and will be available on SSN Canada.