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CIS Final 8: No. 6 Dalhousie Tigers send No. 3 Ottawa Gee-Gees Packing

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CIS Final 8: No. 6 Dalhousie Tigers send No. 3 Ottawa Gee-Gees Packing
Photo: Rich Lam/UBC Athletics

Vancouver, BC –  Coming into the 2016 CIS Men’s Final 8 there was a great debate over just how the Ottawa Gee-Gees, a wild card team managed to be awarded a No. 3 seed over other conference champions. Notably, one of those teams who felt they deserved a higher seed was the Atlantic University Conference (AUS) champions Dalhousie Tigers who earned their way to back-to-back Final 8 appearances by becoming the first team since 2002 to repeat as AUS conference champions.

Luckily for the No. 6 Dalhousie Tigers, the luck of the draw saw them paired in a Quarter-Finals tilt against a Gee-Gees team that came in limping into the National tournament, setting the stage for a potential upset and their very first quarter-finals win in 7 appearances dating back to 1983.

Much like their AUS championship run, the Dalhousie fell behind early in the first-quarter 17-10, trailed for most of the game and methodically climbed their way back using game changing runs. And when adversity starred them in the eye trailing the Gee-Gees 70-62 with a quarter to play, Dalhousie turned to their conference all-star point guard Rich Kaza Mata who scored 10 of his game-high 24 points to propel his team to the CIS Final 8 their first Semi-Final with gutsy 87-83 win over the Gee-Gees.

Kaza Mata took-over down the stretch scoring eight straight points in the late stages and finished 8-of-12 from the floor including 7-of-8 from the charity line.

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Kashrell Lawrence added 14 points, six rebounds and four steals for the AUS champs who forced Ottawa into a season high 24 turnovers, converting them into 31 points. Dalhousie pounded the ball inside for a 50-36 points in the paint advantage and went to the line 24 times compared to 10 attempts by the trigger happy Gee-Gees.

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We shot the lights out in the first half and I think that gave us a little bit of a false sense of success despite the fact that our defense was not great. The defense continued to struggle, especially on containment,” opened-up Gee-Gees head coach James Derouin.

“Their pressure defense gave us all kinds of fits. We knew that was coming. We prepared for it, we worked for it. But credit to them, especially Ritchie. He put his shoulder down and jumped into the defense. As aggressive as they played defensively, we shot ten free throws. That’s a sign to me that we weren’t low and we weren’t trying to counter their aggression with aggression. We didn’t handle it like the veteran group that we have and like we should have.”

The stage is now set for the Dalhousie Tigers (27-8) to face No. 2 ranked, eleven-time and six-time defending CIS champions Carleton Ravens, in what should be another high octane, pressure game which the Tigers have shown capable of winning under the tutelage of third-year head coach Rick Plato.

A closer look at the Tigers past three wins reveals a combined 7 points difference, earning wins over St. Marys 75-74 (AUS Semifinal), 87-85 over UPEI (AUS championship) and a slim 87-83 win over a Gee-Gees that was ranked in the top spot for over five weeks.

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U Sports

Ottawa Gee-Gees halt Ravens perfect season with classical Capital Hoops win

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gee gees halt ravens perfect season with memorable capital hoops classic win
Gee-Gees, Ravens' leave fans looking for more in classical Capital Hoops - Photo: Ottawa Gee-Gees

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.

calvin epistola ottawa gee gees halt carleton ravens perfect season with memorable capital hoops classic win
Calvin Epistola’s Gee-Gees’ halt Yasiin Joseph’s Ravens’ perfect season with classic win: Photo: Edilson J. Silva

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.

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“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.

ottawa gee gees guillaume pepin fights for rebound over carleton ravens isiah osborne 2020 capital hoops classic in ottawa
Gee-Gees Guillaume Pepin fights for rebound with Carleton’s Isiah Osborne Photo: Edilson J. Silva

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.

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ottawa gee gees mens basketball 2020 capital hoops classic champions
Ottawa Gee-Gees 2020 Capital Hoops Classic Champions – Photo: Edilson J. Silva

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.

james derouin ottawa gee gees basketball head coach 2020 capital hoops classic against carleton ravens
James Derouin coaches Gee-Gees to 2020 Capital Hoops Classic win over rivals Carleton Ravens: Photo Edilson J. Silva

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

DateScoreDetails
February 7, 2020 Ottawa 68 – Carleton 67Conference/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, 2014Ottawa 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.

ottawa gee gees basketball fans 2020 capital hoops classic
Ottawa Gee-Gees Basketball Nation at 2020 Capital Hoops Classic: Edilson J. Silva

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.

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U Sports

Omar Shiddo: Soft-spoken assassin

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Omar Shiddo: Soft-spoken assassin
Omar Shiddo is Western University's leading scorer this season with 19.4 points per game. Photo: Western Mustangs

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.

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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. 

Omar Shiddo: Soft-spoken assassin
Omar Shiddo knocks down a jumpshot

“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.

Omar Shiddo: Soft-spoken assassin

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.

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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.

Omar Shiddo: Soft-spoken assassin
Omar Shiddo – Western Mustangs Soft-spoken assassin

“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?”

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