Another memorable Canada West season is in the books and one that saw plenty of competitive action, lots of upsets and surprises, in the end, four teams remain. The OUA conference clearly has the bragging rights as the “top” conference in the country this year. By comparison, Canada West also had their fair share of Top Ten teams and when looking at the win and loss records of the final four teams in each conference, the West stacks up fairly well against the OUA, posting a 71-17 record while the Ontario divisions last remaining teams (Carleton, Ottawa, Windsor, McMaster) combined for a regular season best a with 76-12 record.
Alberta Golden Bears, Victoria Vikes, Saskatchewan Huskies and the Fraser Valley Cascades have survived the best-of-three Canada West Quarter-final series to be within reach of a CIS Final 8 spot.
Alberta Golden Bears
CIS Ranking: #3
Last Season: Lost 2-1 to UBC in best-of-three quarter-finals
Golden Bears, ranked in the Top 10 all year behind the stellar play of 2014 Canada West Player of the Year Jordan Baker, required a third and decisive game to get past the UBC Thunderbird’s who put together a formidable effort before bowing out in three-games.
CIS Ranking: #4
Last Season: Canada West Silver, CIS Consolation finalist
The Victoria Vikes have shown signs of maturity throughout the season maintaining a top five ranking throughout the another successful campaign. Victoria lost the first game of their series against Winnipeg by allowing a uncharacteristic 79 points but return to their defensive ways to take the series 2-1 limiting Winnipeg to a 61, 63 points respectively in the final two games and reach their second straight Final Four.
Fraser Valley Cascades
CIS Ranking: #9
Last Season: Lost to UBC in Canada West semi-finals
Winners of 16 in row are the Fraser Valley Cascades who look to keep the momentum going after sweeping their opening round opponents in a 2-0 series win over the Lethbridge Pronghorns. UFV is peaking at the right time of the season and with their best regular season in the programs short history behind them you have to like their chances of make some noise in this tournament. The lowest scoring of the remaining teams (72.3 PPG) they struggle against the elite of the conference going 0-4 against Alberta, Victoria and Saskatchewan in the regular season.
CIS Ranking: #10
Last Season: Lost 2-1 to Fraser Valley in best-of-three quarter-finals
Saskatchewan Huskies, ranked in the Top Ten for most of year, made quick work of the TRU Wolfpack earning a 2-0 series sweep in their opening series. The Huskies posted a 500% record in the 2nd-half of the year with a 6-6 record, three of those losses came to Victoria and Alberta. Saskatchewan is deep and well balanced at all the right positions with talent in the back-court and mobile forwards in the paint ranking 7th in the country in scoring with 83.5 points per game and 6th in rebounding with 42 per game.
Fraser Valley Cascades vs. Victoria Vikes
The Vikes get majority of their scoring production from seniors Terrell Evans (18.1PPG/7.0RPG) and Chris McLaughlin (14.7PPG/8.2RPG) and will need everything they can get from their front court if they hope to beat a deeper and extremely hot UFV squad that matches up well Vikes. Victoria won both regular season games back in Nov 2013 but the Cascades have improved defensively since and eager to return the favor.
Players to Watch
First team Canada West Terrell Evans does it all for the Vikes and could be the difference maker, his athleticism and ability to bang inside and out poses some questions for UFV.
Keys to Victory
Expect a low scoring slug-fest between these two division rivals. The Vikes will need to get some production from their back-court of Marcus Tibbs and Kyle Peterson and hope their main players stay out of foul trouble against the more physical Cascades.
Saskatchewan Huskies vs. Alberta Golden Bears
Alberta is currently 14-1 on their home floor with their only loss coming to UBC last week in 79-78 defeat, as a result they host the Final Four a Second year head coach has assembled himself quite the roster, loaded with experience and youth Golden Bears will have the mental advantage in this one having beaten the Huskies two weeks ago.
Players to Watch
Jordan Baker 17.6 PPG, 8.2RPG has dominated the Canada West for the past three-years, won almost every possible conference award and is eager to cap off a great career with a trip to Ottawa for the 2014 CIS Men’s Final 8.
Keys to Victory
Who’s got the deeper bench? Saskatchewan or Alberta?
What to Expect
The Canada West is a toss up both Alberta and Victoria have played consistently all season and look like the early favorites. Expect the Huskies and the Golden Bears to go the distance in second semi-finals with Alberta winning the Canada West Championships over the Victoria Vikes.
Ottawa Gee-Gees halt Ravens perfect season with classical Capital Hoops win
Ottawa, ON — (BasketballBuzz) — When it comes to Canadian university basketball there is simply no better rivalry then Carleton Ravens vs. Ottawa Gee-Gees on the scoreboard.
In yet another memorable chapter in the 56 year history of Canada’s most fierce collegiate basketball rivalry series — the No. 6 Ottawa Gee-Gees put an end to the No. 1 Carleton Ravens’ perfect season with a classical 68-67 win in front of 8,100 passionate fans at TD Place in Centretown Ottawa.
Fifth-year senior point guard Calvin Epistola (Toronto, Ont.) knocked down two crucial free-throws with 4.2 seconds remaining to put Ottawa ahead for good in a thrilling affair that featured multiple lead changes in the final minute. The Gee-Gees defense held firm in the dying seconds despite multiple clean looks by the Ravens within four-feet of the basket to win the 14th edition of the Capital Hoops Classic.
Riding an eight-game losing streak to the Ravens’ and falling to make a dent in the Ravens’ supremacy since eeking out two wins in a indelible three-week stretch in early 2016. The Gee-Gees’ made sure to start the new decade victorious over the U Sports basketball machine that has programmed it’s ways to a record 14 national championships and nearly swept the previous 10 years with eight (8) title banners.
“I just know that all 18 guys and the coaching staff believe in me, and I believe in myself. I know I didn’t play well, I just had to got out there and be a leader. That might be not scoring, that might be playing defense. But the two free-throws, that’s leadership.” commented a confident and poignant Epistola outside the Gee-Gees locker-room during post-game.
Since it’s inception in 2007, the Capital Hoops Classic series has been traditionally played at the home of the NHL’s Ottawa Senators in Kanata, Ontario. The Canadian Tire Centre (CTC), formerly known as the ScotiaBank Centre — it hosted the first 13 games of the Bytown battle and registered the largest attendance record for a Canadian university game with 10, 780 fans flooding the gates in 2015.
Guillaume Pépin (Montreal, Que) led three Gee-Gees players in double-figures with 15 points, 6 rebounds. Epistola scored 6 of his 14 points in the fourth-quarter and was clutch down the stretch adding 6 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals. Ottawa’s 6-foot-10 centre Marlon Kordrostami was big with 12 points and a game-high 8 rebounds. The fourth-year finance came-up with a calculated block on Isiah Osborne and made difficult for Carleton get anything inside.
“It took a lot of hard work and a really good week of practice.” discussed Pépin amidst the chaos — as the Gee-Gees fans rushed the floor following the win. Our defensive rotations were really good, there was always someone on the kick-outs.
The Ravens rod the hand of Osborne’s game-high 21 points and team-high 5 rebounds. The Windsor native shot 7-of-14 for the game and knocked down 2-of-3 triples — including a perfect 6-of-6 from the free-throw line. Fifth-year senior guard Yasiin Joseph (Ottawa, Ont) scored 12 of his 20 points in the fourth-quarter as the Ravens’ rallied from an 55-46, 11-point hole to take a 65-62 lead with 1:28 remaining.
Coming into the highly anticipated rematch both teams occupied top 10 spots nationally for three-pointers made, but playing in a new atmosphere that featured a freshly laid hardwood and a new set rims contributed to both teams poor shooting efficiency.
The two teams combined for 12-of-36 from the outside as the Gee-Gees limited the Ravens to a rare 5-of-19 (26.3%) three-point shooting night. Ottawa shot just 13-of-24 (54%) from the charity stripe.
“In an environment like this and with both rims freshly out of the box, you can even brake those things. Getting closer to the basket and easier looks at the rim was an emphasis for both teams,” discussed Gee-Gees head coach James Derouin after the post game mayhem.
Now in his 10th season, Derouin, the second longest tenured Gee-Gees head coach has seen his fair share of big victories and although the win reclaims some bragging rights, he is quick to pinpoint that, “It could’ve gone either way, I mean they missed two, three really good looks within three-feet of our basket.”
In 25 games played since taking over the helm in 2010 from player (2001-2002), turned assistant coach (2002-2008) to now one of brightest head coaching minds in Canada — Derouin’s teams’ hold the top distinction, alongside the Ryerson Rams’ as the school(s) with the most wins over the Carleton Ravens.
A whooping 5-20 win-loss record, and all but one of the five victories by two points or less during that stretch isn’t exactly much to buzz about — but it’s fitting enough to tell the narrative about Derouin’s successful coaching career.
Gee-Gees wins over Carleton during James Derouin Era
|February 7, 2020||Ottawa 68 – Carleton 67||Conference/Capital Hoops Classic|
|February 5, 2016||Ottawa 78 – Carleton 72||Conference/Capital Hoops Classic|
|January 16, 2016||Ottawa 75 – Carleton 73||Conference/League/Regular Season|
|January 10, 2015||Ottawa 68 – Carleton 66||Conference/League/Regular Season|
|March 1, 2014||Ottawa 78 – Carleton 67||OUA Conference Championship|
The latest victory over the Ravens’ pushes the Gee-Gees’ winning streak to four with two home games remaining before the OUA conference playoffs begin.
Ottawa will host the 2020 U Sports Final 8 Championships, the Gee-Gees were awarded the hosting rights for the men’s national tournament from which will take place March 7-9 at TD Place.
A guaranteed return to the big stage for the first time since four straight appearances from 2013-2016 will certainly easy the post-season pressure. But lingering memories of two straight championship game appearances only to be denied by Carleton in the Gold medal game — still haunt the Gee-Gees program — losing in Ottawa 79-67 in 2014 and subsequently the following year, 93-46 in Toronto.
History and numbers are great and the Gee-Gees have shown the country that they can beat Carleton during the regular season and in the post-season. As the untold chapters unfold — nothing would be better for Gee-Gees Nation and for Canada’s best collegiate basketball event then the ultimate glory — a victory over their arch rivals in the championship game in three-weeks time.
Lucky for them, and if the stars align they will have a chance to eekout the programs’ first national basketball title.
Omar Shiddo: Soft-spoken assassin
It’s around 8:30 p.m. on a frigid Wednesday in the dead of winter, and Omar Shiddo is having one of his worst games of the season.
The fourth-year Western Mustangs guard, who has drawn comparisons to Damian Lillard for his clutch shooting, has just five points in the first half of a tight game against the Guelph Gryphons.
In the second half his game marginally improves, but there are a series of missteps — layups that don’t go down, jump shots that rim out and an occasional lack of motion without the ball.
Shiddo also gets hit with a technical foul after a physical bucket he felt should have resulted in an and-one, clapping back at two Guelph players who allegedly chirped at him during the play.
This is a far cry from the kinds of performance Shiddo is known for, and light years away from the 35-point outburst he had four days earlier in an 84-79 win over rival McMaster.
It doesn’t matter — not even remotely.
Western clamps down on defence in the second half and several teammates make big shots. Shiddo helps neutralize Guelph guard Malcolm Glanville, who had 11 first-half points and showed signs of catching fire.
Shiddo finishes with 12 points on 4-15 shooting, his second-lowest total of the year. Five other Mustang players players score in double-digits, including 27 points from sharp-shooting guard Eriq Jenkins.
Western pulls away and cruises to a 94-73 victory that’s as ugly as it is decisive.
“That’s a win, boys!” someone shouts emphatically as the team gathers for a post-game huddle in the cavernous, mostly-empty Alumni Hall in London, Ont. — Western’s home court.
“Guys on my team stepped up,” said Shiddo minutes later in an interview, his soft-spoken analysis tumbling out as quickly as he jukes opponents, like water over Niagara Falls.
“The second half was more of other guys doing their thing and me not having to do as much scoring, which I love to do. It’s all about team … we got a big win.”
Shiddo is unquestionably a leader — and on most nights, the most effective offensive weapon — on a Western team loaded with potential.
In his tenure, the Mustangs have been as good as they have been in a decade, with a legitimate chance to challenge for a berth in the U Sports Final 8 — Canada’s version of March Madness — in Ottawa.
“That’s our goal from the beginning of the year — trying to get to nationals,” said Shiddo, who grew up in Brampton, Ont., a hotbed that has produced several NBA players, including Cleveland Cavaliers forward Tristan Thompson and former No. 1 pick Anthony Bennett.
“We think we’re a top-five team in the country,” said Shiddo. “We’ve just need to continue to play like it.”
Western is ranked outside the Top 10 nationally, but has the second-best record in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA), four points behind the Carleton Ravens.
They’re also first in the OUA West division, with a roster that skews relatively young: Seven of the 12 players are freshmen or sophomores.
Nikola Farkic, a 6-foot point guard from Waterloo, is team captain and Jenkins (Windsor, Ont.) is arguably its most reliable three-point threat. Veteran forward Julian Walker (Barrie, Ont.) anchors a front court with considerable promise, thanks in large part to lean, athletic second-year players Aaron Tennant (London, Ont.) and Ukasha Khan (Brampton, Ont.).
“A lot of stuff goes unnoticed on the stat sheet,” said Shiddo. “But we’ve got a full team and we’re 10 deep. Everybody plays their role. We’re not a team where it’s one guy.”
He’s right. This win over Guelph is proof enough of that. And yet in crunch time, Shiddo has a penchant for taking over games, Lillard-style, and making big shots.
It has become part of Western lore.
When Lillard puts a team on his back and wills it to victory in the fourth quarter, fans and media call it Dame Time. When Shiddo does this, it’s #Omellytime.
Shiddo showed hints of his #Omelly mentality early against Guelph. After Western fell behind 10-2 in the first quarter, his demeanor shifted from deferential to aggressive, pushing the ball up the floor and calmly making a mid-range jumper to cut the lead to six.
Minutes later, he drilled a three-pointer to make it 12-7, and attacked the basket for a layup that lingered on the rim but didn’t fall. His teammates took their cue and soon Western had its first lead of the game.
At the end of the first quarter the score was 28-28. At halftime Western led 47-46, and they never looked back.
“I’m not the rah rah type of — football type of leader,” said Shiddo. “I try to lead by example.
“Say what has to be said, and other than that just lead by example. It’s not how much you say, it’s about what you say.”
In U Sports, most teams are at the mercy of a Carleton dynasty that has won 14 of the last 17 national championships.
Western is a long shot to come anywhere near the title game this season, and Carleton is favoured to win it. When the teams meet for a regular-season tilt at Alumni Hall on Jan. 31, it will likely be for the last time.
Shiddo is nobody’s fool. He knows the odds are stacked against his team, even if he’s at his best and #Omellytime is in full effect.
His confidence is tempered with realism, but it’s still there.
“Against a team like that we’re not going to be up by one at half — we’ll probably be down by 20,” he said. “We have to play our perfect game.”
They will almost certainly not be perfect. They will almost certainly lose. And yet Omar Shiddo, the soft-spoken assassin, has a question for you.
“Why not shock the country,” he said, “and beat the No. 1 team?”