(with files from OUA)
The quest for the Wilson Cup continues Friday night from the Mattamy Athletic Centre in downtown Toronto with the OUA Final Four, as the remaining combatting schools are looking to be crowned 2015-16 OUA men's basketball champions.
Final Four action begins Friday, Mar. 11 between the Ravens and Gee-Gees, with tipoff coming at 5:00 p.m., followed by the Lancers and Rams at 8 p.m. The bronze and gold medal games take place the following day at 5 p.m. and 8 p.m., respectively.
The two top ranked teams in the country will face off once again in the "Battle of Ottawa," as the No. 1 nationally ranked Carleton Ravens and No. 2 uOttawa Gee-Gees will each be looking to grab a spot in the Wilson Cup final.
“The strength of the conference makes the Final Four that much more competitive,” said Gee-Gees head coach James Derouin. “It’s like a mini-nationals. I don’t think there’s any better prep for nationals – tough games with a lot on the line in big venues with big crowds. It makes for some great basketball.”
Leading the charge for the Gee-Gees will be 2015-16 OUA Player of the Year and first-team all-star Mike L'Africain (Oakville, Ont.), whose team leading 20.4 points per game was fifth most in the province this season. The point-guard also ranks in the top five in OUA in three-point shooting (41.8%), assists (101) and free-throw percentage (85.9).
As he was all season long, L'Africain remained clutch in the playoffs for the Gee-Gees, making what would end up being the game winning shot in his team's 73-72 quarter-final win over the Queen's Gaels. He recorded game-highs with 27 points, while dishing out five assists. Another first-team all-star played an important role in the victory, as Defensive Player of the Year Caleb Agada (Burlington, Ont.) had a double-double, scoring 18 points and grabbing a game-high 15 boards.
With Ottawa averaging the second most points per game in OUA (86.9), it will be interesting to see if defense does in fact win championships, as Carleton arguably lays claim to the league's strongest, allowing a league low of 60.7 points per game.
But the Ravens' strengths aren't reserved to the backcourt, as they finished the regular season scoring the third most points per game in the province, with a mark of 86.2. Their offensive talents were on full display in their quarter-final matchup, as they made quick work of the Brock Badgers, winning in convincing fashion 90-52.
The Ravens had an all-star of their own come up big in the round-of-eight, as OUA second-team honouree Connor Wood (Guelph, Ont.) had a game-high of a whopping 37 points, while snagging a team-high six rebounds.
First-team all-star Kaza Kajami-Keane (Ajax, Ont.) also played a big part in the lopsided win, tossing out a game-high three assists, which was nothing new for Kajami-Keane, as he led the conference in assists per game (6.6) this season. He also hit double digits in points, scoring 14.
Other players to watch in the semi-final matchup include a pair of OUA second-team all-stars: Ottawa's Nathan McCarthy (Burlington, Ont.), who led the league with 39 blocks, while shooting for the second best field goal percentage (60.6) and Carleton's Guillaume Payen Boucard (Montreal, Que.), who led his team with 14.6 points per game, ranking 20th in the province. Payen Boucard also ranked inside the top 20 in blocks (17) and field-goal percentage (53.8)
The Gee-Gees won both matchups against the Ravens this season, with the first being a tightknit affair on Jan. 16, finishing in a score of 75-73. Agada set the pace for the Gee-Gees with a team-high 23 points, to go along with a game-high 10 boards, while Kajami-Keane led the way for the Ravens with game-highs in points (24) and assists (6)
The second matchup between the two was the Feb. 5 Capital Hoops Classic, which ended in a 78-72 final. L'Africain had a game-high 23 points for the Gee-Gees, adding three assists and three rebounds in the process. Kajami-Keane once again played a pivotal role for the Ravens, along with Payen Boucard, as each scored 19 points, while the latter came away with a game-high 11 rebounds.
“What makes it challenging is meeting them for the third time. We’re 2-0 to start and now it’s about trying to figure out which adjustments to keep and what to change up,” said Derouin. “We didn’t have Caleb in the second game and he was such a big part of the first game. We have to find a mix between those two games. The similarity between the two was that our rebounding made a difference. That will probably be the difference again this week.”
Follow the full Wilson Cup weekend on OUA.tv.