The uOttawa men’s basketball team will return to the OUA Wilson Cup Final Four for the fifth consecutive season thanks to a 93-81 victory on home court over the Laurentian Voyageurs in the conference quarter-final.
The Gee-Gees were led by seniors Matt Plunkett and Caleb Agada with 21 and 16 points, respectively. Both players appeared questionable to play at the end of the regular season finale and came out with masterful performances. Plunkett earned a career high in scoring on 6-for-9 shooting from long distance along with three clutch free throws to ice the game while Agada added eight rebounds, six assists, and two steals to his statline.
The third quarter was the turning point as Ottawa had the energy from start to finish. Laurentian relied heavily on free throws from Kadre Gray which, while the star rookie was a perfect 15-15 from the line, slowed down the rest of the Vees. Ottawa, on the other hand, sank five three-pointers (three from the hands of Plunkett), shared the basketball, and enjoyed a 20-point cushion.
“That was a great feeling for us because we have had some trouble in the third quarter. The big thing was the first three minutes defensively we got stops,” explained fifth-year point guard Adam Presutti, who showed off his defensive prowess with a rejection of a layup in the second quarter and added 11 points and five assists in his first playoff game with the Gee-Gees.
That cushion, and Ottawa’s playoff experience, came in handy in the fourth when Laurentian did everything it could to claw back. The Vees started trading trips to the free throw line for possessions early in the final minutes, and Gray hit a transition three to make it 84-74 with 1:11 left.
“When you play Laurentian and you play Shawn [Swords] they are going to give it to you for forty minutes – they are press you and they are going to foul you and do whatever it takes to get a win,” said Gee-Gees head coach James Derouin. “You know that coming in and I think our guys remained composed: that’s experience.”
After a pair of free throws from Plunkett, Iacoe nailed a trey from the top which whittled it down to nine points at 90-81. That was the final bucket for Laurentian, with Robinson adding a perfect trip to the stripe right afterwards.
“Our team defence was excellent. We left our guys pretty much on an island against Kadre. Let’s be honest, he’s impressive,” noted Derouin. “But we made sure no one else beat us.” The rookie guard finished with a career high of 39 points on 11-26 field goal shooting. Anthony Iacoe and David Aromolaran added 14 and 13 points apiece for Laurentian.
Jean Emmanuel Pierre-Charles had a very solid first half for Ottawa, putting up eleven points and two blocks in the early going. He finished with 15 points and seven rebounds.
Laurentian briefly took a 12-11 lead before Ottawa responded with a pair of transition buckets generated by Calvin Epistola and Agada steals.
“The Final Four is always a fun time – there’s going to be good competition as always,” said Presutti who reached the OUA Final Four twice with McMaster. “This is it – this is what we ask for. It’s the final push to reach our goals.”
The OUA Final Four will be held March 3-4 at Carleton University and Ottawa will face the Ryerson Rams. More details to come.