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Brock Badgers guard Kevaughn Ellis drives past Ottawa Gee-Gees defender Kevin Otoo during 2024 OUA men's basketball playoffs quarter-finals action.
Brock Badgers guard Kevaughn Ellis drives past Ottawa Gee-Gees defender Kevin Otoo during 2024 OUA men's basketball playoffs quarter-finals action. - Photo: Greg Mason / Ottawa Gee-Gees

U Sports

Brock Badgers defeat Carleton, dismantle Gee-Gees to book OUA Final Four spot

The Brock Badgers are one win away from their second U Sports championship in three years.

A late-season roster shake-up, kept confidential within the team, helped them find their identity and proved to be the turning point for the Brock Badgers men’s basketball team.

Now, following a rare successful trip to the nation’s capital, they find themselves one win away from reaching their second U Sports Final 8 championship in three years.

Earning the final playoff spot by winning their last three regular-season games, Brock embarked on a road trip many consider the toughest in the country: a journey east on Highway 401 to Ottawa.

This trip held particular significance for their fifth-year head coach, Willy Manigat, who previously spent countless hours honing his skills at the Ravens’ Nest (Carleton University). Manigat, a former Ravens player and assistant coach who secured two championships in each role, returned to his familiar stomping grounds.

Trailing by nine points entering the fourth quarter, the Badgers displayed relentless defensive pressure and rebounding tenacity, mirroring the Ravens’ signature style that dominated the court for two decades.

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Brock badgers guard jevon brown blows past carleton ravens marjok okado during the opening round of the 2024 oua playoffs
Brock Badgers guard Jevon Brown blows past Carleton Ravens Marjok Okado during the opening round of the 2024 OUA playoffs at the Ravens Nest in Ottawa – Photo: Marc Lafleur

They held Carleton scoreless for the first five minutes of the final frame and limited them to just three points in the first two minutes. This defensive stand propelled Brock to a narrow 70-69 victory, ending the Ravens’ reign over U Sports men’s basketball.

From Cinderella Start to Dominant Finish Against the Gee-Gees

Unfazed by their historic upset, the Badgers quickly shifted their focus to the Ottawa Gee-Gees. This game held additional weight for Manigat, who played for the Gee-Gees from 2005-2006. However, Brock initially struggled to replicate their previous intensity, falling behind by a significant 25-15 margin.

In true Cinderella fashion, veteran point guard Isaiah Budjoso ignited a spark with a clutch four-point play reminiscent of an old-school NBA jam. This play trimmed the Gee-Gees’ lead to 25-19 by the end of the first quarter.

Similar to the Ravens game, Manigat’s team found themselves trailing at halftime despite a strong first-half showing. The Gee-Gees closed the half on a 9-2 run, taking a 45-38 lead. In the locker room, Manigat emphasized the importance of executing the game plan.

“We just stuck to the game plan,” Manigat revealed. “I went into halftime and said to the guys, we had a game plan, but we don’t even know what it looks like. If we’re going to go down, let’s make sure we know what it looks like.”

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Defence Wins Championships

Jordan tchuente hangs on the montpetit hall rim during the ottawa gee gees brock badgers 2024 oua basketball playoffs quarter finals
Brock Badgers fifth-year forward Jordan Tchuente hangs on the rim at Montpetit Hall during the 2024 Ontario University Association (OUA) mens’ basketball quarter-finals between Brock Badgers and the University of Ottawa. – Greg Mason / Ottawa Gee-Gees.

Brock exploded out of the locker room, erasing the seven-point half-time deficit to take the lead. Their timely three-point shooting, dominance on the boards and stifling team defence proved pivotal.

Utilizing their size, speed, and physicality, Brock implemented a suffocating defensive strategy, employing a combination of full-court pressure and half-court blitzes. This defensive masterclass limited the Gee-Gees to a mere 13 points in the second half, including a shocking five points in the fourth quarter.

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Ottawa native Jordan Tchuente continued his impressive play with a double-double (14 points, 15 rebounds), silencing the Gee-Gees’ home crowd. Brock cruised to an emphatic 81-58 victory and secured their ticket to the OUA Final Four.

“Throughout the whole season, we were going through it, and then something happened in the locker room, can’t really speak on it, but we just came out different for the whole playoffs,” Tchuente said. “We had to deal with Carleton, now we dealt with Ottawa, on to the next one.”

Manigat Praises Team Effort

“It’s about execution at this stage of the year,” Manigat continued. “Anybody that’s been around winning knows that it’s not about complicated plans. It’s about sticking to your plan, being fundamentally sound, defending, rebounding, and getting out in transition.”

“This is just who I’ve expected this team to be all year, and we’re finally putting it together. Health has a lot to do with it. We’re just finally healthy at the right time and clicking at the right time. We’re just defending and rebounding and then playing our game,” Manigat concluded.

Brock badgers guard isaiah bujdoso drives past ottawa gee gees dragan stajic
Brock Badgers guard Isaiah Bujdoso drives past Ottawa Gee-Gees Dragan Stajic – Photo: Greg Mason / Ottawa Gee-Gees

Led by Isaiah Budjdoso’s efficient shooting (21 points on 8-of-14 shooting), five Badgers reached double digits in scoring. Jevon Brown played a crucial role, scoring 14 of his 19 points in the second half and contributing with rebounds and steals.

Kevaughn Ellis chipped in with a well-rounded performance of 10 points, five assists, four rebounds and three steals. Six-foot-eight forward Georges Ngandu provided a spark off the bench with a double-double of 11 points and rebounds in 28 minutes.

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The Badgers now set their sights on the OUA Final Four with a trip to London, Ontario to take on the Western Mustangs in London, Ontario. This matchup will determine who secures one of the two automatic qualifying bids to the 2024 U Sports Final 8 men’s championship.

Must Read:
Ottawa Gee-Gees claim 2023 OUA Championship over rivals Carleton

On the other hand, the Gee-Gees’ recent loss at home marks their second playoff defeat to a lower seed in three years. Despite this setback, they remain in contention for a potential Final 8 wild card bid, showcasing their resilience following a strong regular season performance.

Carleton Ravens ready to hit the recruiting trail

Carleton Ravens freshman point guard Xavier Spencer attacks the rim with a baseline drive against the Brock Badgers. Spencer was named the 2023-24 U Sports Rookie of the year.
Carleton Ravens freshman point guard Xavier Spencer attacks the rim with a baseline drive against the Brock Badgers. Spencer was named the 2023-24 U Sports rookie of the year. – Photo: Marc Lafleur

As for Carleton and head coach Taffe Charles, it’s the end of the road to what was one of the most challenging seasons in a long-time and the earliest the Ravens have been knocked out of the OUA playoffs since 1999.

Although unsatisfied with the overall outcome, Charles is eager to continue the Ravens’ rebuilding process by getting a head start on the recruiting trail.

“We need to get older; that’s probably the biggest thing. We need to get stronger and increase our foot speed. We have a good base to build upon. I haven’t had a head start in recruiting in a long time; I’m usually on the road,” commented Charles on the team’s future plans.

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