The Queen’s Gaels pushed the no. 2 ranked Ottawa Gee-Gees to the brink in Saturday’s OUA quarter-final at Montpetit Hall, leading by one point with ten seconds remaining. Ottawa’s Mike L’Africain came through with the game-winning layup, fighting his way through traffic to put the Gee-Gees up 73-72 with 1.1 seconds remaining.
Ottawa advances to the OUA Wilson Cup Final Four, which will be held at Ryerson March 11-12. The team will meet the Carleton Ravens in semifinal action on Friday night.
L’Africain finished with a game-high 27 points, while Queen’s was paced by 19 from fellow fifth-year guard Sukhpreet Singh. It was Singh who tied the game up with a coast-to-coast and-one 71-71 with 42 seconds to play. He then earned a trip to the free throw line with 10.3 seconds remaining.
After making his first, Singh missed the second and it was L’Africain who collected the crucial rebound. After a Gaels foul at mid-court, the Oakville, Ont., native got the ball back in his hands for the final bucket. Twelve of L’Africain’s points came in the fourth quarter as Ottawa looked to him to fend off the Gaels.
Caleb Agada added 18 points and 15 rebounds along with two blocks for Ottawa, while Queen’s had 15 and 8 from Tanner Graham as well as 11 and 14 from Mike Shoveller.
“It was just a fight. We have a lot of playoff experience but this was just one of those games that we had to win with our hearts because Queen’s gave us everything they had,” said Agada. “Our crowd had our back the whole night, and I’m so proud to be a Gee-Gee right now. We’re completely comfortable giving Mike the ball at the end of the game with complete faith."
L’Africain hit a buzzer-beater out of a timeout to send Ottawa into the locker room with a 39-29 halftime lead. Queen’s used a physical approach to claw back into the game, closing the gap to 44-40 with 6:03 to play in the third quarter. It was a team effort offensively for the Gaels in the quarter. Sammy Ayisi was a spark for Queen’s, adding timely baskets off the bench.
With 6:19 to play in fourth, Tanner Graham gave the Gaels their first lead from the line, 60-59. L’Africain took the ball to the hoop on successive possessions to put the Gee-Gees back on top. The fifth-year then canned a three-pointer, seeming to give Ottawa the momentum before Andrew Mavety answered at the other end, 67-64. Mavety added a deep two as Queen’s let it fly from long range.
Mike Shoveller shut down Brody Maracle in the paint on Ottawa’s second-last possession of regulation. Mavety had a chance to win it for Queen’s with 1.1 seconds remaining but missed his final three-point attempt from corner, banking off the side of the backboard. Ryall Stroud was also a huge factor defensively for the Gaels in the paint.
“We really just couldn’t get into any rhythm offensively. They stayed home on our shooters and we had trouble finishing at the rim. It’s crazy that the last one did go in because there had to be a dozen that went in-and-out tonight,” said Gee-Gees head coach James Derouin, who will return to the OUA Final Four for the fifth time in his six seasons at the helm. “Queen’s played a phenomenal game, and I’m proud of the guys for staying with it."
In addition to the late heroics, the Gee-Gees win was largely due to the team’s strong start. Ottawa’s defence was stifling through the opening seven minutes, highlighted by a blocked three-point shot from Caleb Agada. Mike L’Africain turned that quickly into a stretch pass for a streaking Agada who brought the house down with a massive two-handed slam. Queen’s committed nine turnovers in the first quarter alone, finishing the game with 14.
Queen’s closed a 19-8 gap to 21-17 to start the second before a Mehdi Tihani three-pointer provided a reply. Tihani then took a charge, keying up a tightly contested remainder of the second frame.
Ottawa finished the game shooting 37 per cent from the field while Queen’s converted 49 per cent of its shots. The Gee-Gees out-rebounded the Gaels 42-36, picking up 18 at the offensive end led by six from Agada.