The OUA Champion uOttawa Gee-Gees will head into the CIS Final Eight Championship this weekend seeded no. 1 for the very first time in program history. The country’s best teams will gather this weekend at Ottawa’s Canadian Tire Centre as the no. 2 Carleton Ravens will be hosting the event and looking to defend their national title.
The 2014 Final 8, hosted by Carleton University, gets under way Friday at Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa and culminates Sunday at 2 p.m. with the gold-medal final, live on Sportsnet.
Sportsnet also has live coverage of Saturday’s semifinals at 6 and 8 p.m., on Sportsnet 360. All 10 games from the competition - including televised contests - will be webcast live on www.CIS-SIC.tv.
“The team is thrilled to be seeded number one, and for it to be the first time in school history is very special. But the team knows that we still have work to do, and we are focused on our first game,” said head coach James Derouin. “
The top dog Gee-Gees will be looking for their first ever national championship and that road will start on Friday when they face the Saskatchewan Huskies for the first time in program history. The Huskies earned the tournament wild card after capturing the Canada West bronze medal, beating out University of the Fraser Valley.
As a team the Huskies went 15-7 during the regular season and were ranked amongst the best offensive teams in the CIS, averaging 10.2 three-pointers made per game. Saskatchewan is returning to the Final 8 for the first time since 2011 when the Huskies finished fourth, a year after winning it all in 2010. The garnet and grey will have the advantage of experience over Saskatchewan, with 11 players returning from last year’s bronze medal winning team, plus Terry Thomas who won bronze with St. F-X in 2011.The Huskies lineup is relatively young, with no players ever participating in a Final 8 before.
Saskatchewan’s Stephon Lamar will pose the biggest threat to the Gee-Gees as he was stellar on multiple facets for the Huskies this season. The point guard from San Diego, California finished the season averaging 19.0 points, 5.3 assists and 3.5 rebounds per game. uOttawa will have contain Lamar by keeping him out of the paint where he excels at finishing or finding his shooters.
uOttawa will also have their hands full this weekend with Ben Baker. The six foot three guard was one of the country’s top rebounders during the regular season, averaging 10.3 rebounds per game despite his average height. Baker also averaged 12.5 points and 3.4 assists per game.
“There is quite a bit of preparation to be done, not only because we haven't faced the team before, but potentially we could face three teams in three days that we have never faced before. It's going to be a long week for the coaches. But it’s worth it,” said Derouin. “The key to victory will be our defence and our rebounding. If we can contain Lamar, get stops and get our transition game in gear then I think we will be in good shape.”
Johnny Berhanemeskel, who was the key contributor in uOttawa’s win over Carleton last weekend, will look to follow up his career performance and record breaking season with a national championship title this weekend. The Ottawa native recorded 30 points in the OUA Final and drained the game winner for the Gee-Gees in the dying seconds on a step back jumper.
“We all believe the time is now - you never know when you’ll get an opportunity like this again so you really have to seize the moment. Last year we had all the intentions of winning and we didn't so that is still in the back of our minds. The plan all season long was to be in this position at the end of the season. We want this very badly but now we have to focus and get the job done,” said Berhanemeskel.
CHAMPIONSHIP SCHEDULE (all times EASTERN TIME)
Friday, March 7
12:30 Quarter-final 1: No. 6 Saint Mary’s vs. No. 3 Alberta (www.CIS-SIC.tv)
14:30 Quarter-final 2: No. 7 McMaster vs. No. 2 Carleton (www.CIS-SIC.tv)
17:30 Quarter-final 3: No. 5 McGill vs. No. 4 Victoria (www.CIS-SIC.tv)
20:00 Quarter-final 4: No. 8 Saskatchewan vs. No. 1 Ottawa (www.CIS-SIC.tv)
Saturday, March 8
12:30 Consolation 1: Loser QF 1 vs. Loser QF 2 (www.CIS-SIC.tv)
14:30 Consolation 2: Loser QF 3 vs. Loser QF 4 (www.CIS-SIC.tv)
18:00 Semifinal 1: Winner QF 1 vs. Winner QF 2 (Sportsnet 360 / www.CIS-SIC.tv *)
20:00 Semifinal 2: Winner QF 3 vs. Winner QF 4 (Sportsnet 360 / www.CIS-SIC.tv *)
Sunday, March 9
* The webcast of all 3 televised games (semifinals & final) will be on pay-per-view basis.