The Gee-Gees seemed as fired up as ever on Saturday night, knowing that the blood, sweat and tears poured into this season would mean nothing if they were unable to take a victory versus the Ryerson Rams. Thanks to strong fourth quarter defence they accomplished just that and took a close 79-78 victory, sending them to the OUA Final Four Championship in Toronto next weekend.
“It was a great game. I thought our fourth quarter defence was huge. Our game plan was to wear down their big players and I think we were able to do that,” said Gee-Gees head coach James Derouin. “Our goal was to make it back here and we achieved that tonight. We have to give credit to the other team they played a great game but I was happy with how resilient we were tonight.”
It was a neck and neck first half between the teams as both took turns with the lead until uOttawa carried a five point edge into the half-time break. Fans that filled Monpetit Hall got their money’s worth on Saturday as uOttawa put in their usually dose of dunks and high octane transition play. Terry Thomas had three dunks in the first half and scored a team high 28 points along with four rebounds and two steals.
Ryerson tied the game back up mid-way through the third as the Gee-Gees struggled coming out of the halftime break. Caleb Agada and Mehdi Tihani carried the team through their cold shooting streak as they locked down defensively, coming up with big stops in uOttawa’s end. As a result, Ottawa was able to relax in the offensive end and jump ahead to an eight point lead. The pair of Agada and Tihani were key performers for the garnet and grey as they wore down the Rams’ top player, Jahmal Jones, who was limited to 10 points on 3-9 shooting.
Ryerson came into the fourth quarter with determination as they continued to hit big shots while being relentless on the defensive end. Bjorn Michaelsen played an important shutdown role for the Rams as he made many big stops on Gabriel Gonthier-Dubue. The Gee-Gees centre still managed to record a double-double, scoring 15 points, 10 boards and four assists.
Still, it was a battle to the end between the teams as the game was all tied up a 67 with 5:22 remaining the fourth. With Tihani on the bench, Agada checked back into the game and had an immediate impact as he came up with big steals to help put uOttawa ahead by four. After a Ryerson bucket, Gabriel Gonthier-Dubue was able to draw a foul and make both free throws to bring the lead back to four.
Ryerson added two free throws in the final seconds but time was their enemy as they were unable to make the comeback. After being fouled intentionally, Agada iced the victory from the free throw line, making both and extending the Gee-Gees lead back to four points with 5.4 seconds remaining. Ryerson sank a three as time expired to account for the final one-point margin.
In the end, uOttawa was able to shoot 4-4 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter and 18-20 on the night which proved to be a decisive factor.
“All I could think of is how important it was to make those shots because they were by far the biggest free throws of my career. This experience will help us in the playoffs because now we have more confidence in our defence. It helps that we are such a close group. The guys on this team are like my brothers and we go into every game together ready for battle,” said Agada.
Adika Peter-McNeilly had a strong performance for the Rams, making opportune shots throughout the game and leading Ryerson on the score sheet with 23 points and three blocks on defense. Jordan Gauthier was also in the zone, scoring 20 points.
With the victory the Gee-Gees will now prepare to battle it out in Toronto next weekend against Ontario’s best. The Wilson Cup Final Four tournament will take place at Ryerson University’s Mattamy Athletic Centre and will showcase the Carleton Ravens and the uOttawa Gee-Gees from the East and the McMaster Marauders and the Windsor Lancers from the West.
OUA SEMIFINALS SCHEDULE:
Carleton vs. Windsor at 6 p.m on Friday, February 28
McMaster vs. Ottawa at 8 p.m on Friday, February 28
1 2 3 4 Final
Ryerson 20 20 19 19 78
Ottawa 22 23 20 14 79