The Ottawa Gee-Gees men’s basketball team walked into a sold-out, standing room only Ravens Nest and handed the Carleton Ravens an emphatic 79-57 beat down to win the 2023 Ontario University Association (OUA) championship.
With the excitement and the energy running high from both fan bases, the two teams opened-up the scoring by exchanging three-point baskets.
The offence quickly dried-up as Carleton’s game-high, five point lead at 15-10, with under two minutes, was quickly erased by an 8-0 Gee-Gees run to seize momentum and an 18-15 advantage after the first-quarter.
Ottawa continued to play outstanding individual defence, relying on their rotations and active hands to clog-up gaps and passing lanes as Carleton struggled to find any rhythm with their offensive sets.
Undeterred by previous meltdowns at the Ravens Nest, Ottawa strung together an 11-0 run, pushed the lead to double-digits and settled for a six-point (35-29) half-time lead, as the two teams headed into their respective locker rooms.
The Gee-Gees limited the Ravens to just 11 points in the third-quarter to push the advantage to 55-40 with ten minutes to play and blew the game wide open in the fourth quarter to cruise to the 22 point victory, their biggest over their bytown rivals since picking-up a 24 point win on February 28, 1999.
Six-foot-six forward Guillaume Pepin (Montreal, Que.), an OUA first-team all-star, scored 14 of his game-high 19 points in the fourth-quarter on 5-of-11 three-pointers as five Ottawa players hit double-figures scoring for the second straight playoff game.
“What a game, everybody stepped up, everybody played their game, we followed the scouting plan, we know our personnel and I think if we do that, nobody can beat us and that’s what we did tonight.” discussed Pepin amidst the championship celebration.
Kevin Otoo (Toronto, Ont.) former a three-time Ontario College Athletic Association (OCAA) medallist with the Humber College Hawks was equally hot with nine of his 17 points in the third-quarter. The fourth year transfer student buried 4-of-7 three-pointers, added three steals, two rebounds and two assists.
Otoo, has now won back-to-back provincial titles at the Canadian Colleges Athletic Association (CCAA) level with the Hawks and now with the Gee-Gees at U Sports level.
“It’s starting to feel like Humber all over again.” stated a smiling Otoo following the Gee-Gees victory. “We were number one at Humber College and to be able to come here, do the same thing, back-to-back provincial championships from college to university, it’s just God’s doing.”
“The last two games we always folded in the third-quarter, we just had to keep ourselves accountable, keep ourselves disciplined, hit our shots, play defence, and we came out with the W.” continued Otoo.
Gee-Gees starting point guard Dragan Stajic (Ottawa, Ont.) once again proved to be one of the best playmakers in the country with 13 points, eight assists, four steals. Cole Newton (Fergus, Ont.) also played a key role with 12 points, four rebounds, two assists, two blocks.
Josh Inkumsah (Barrie, Ont.) dominated the boards with a game-high 14 rebounds, chipped-in six points and found the open teammate on several occasions to finish with two assists.
Six-foot-four OUA all-rookie team Jacques-Melaine Guemeta (Douala, Cameroon), another CCAA transfer from Crandall University, continued to be a spark plug off the bench for the Gee-Gees with 10 points, two rebounds and two big three-pointers in the first half.
Often drawing the top offensive assignment on the opposing team, Guemeta went from barely seeing the floor in the preseason to a key piece in the Gees-Gees late season rotation.
“Basically, I just stick by my dedication and I just kept working from the beginning of the season. If you follow our team, I was barely playing at the beginning, but I just had to keep working, keep proving myself, and that’s basically how I got minutes.”
Earning one of the biggest wins of his career and the second OUA conference title of his thirteen-year tenure, Gee-Gees head coach James Derouin emphasized his team’s ability to stay aggressive and limit the Ravens inside dominance.
“Just to compete. We really felt like in the first two games, the combination of Elliot (Bailey) and Grant (Shephard) in the post, really just dominated those first two games. We wanted to make sure that we competed on the glass, try to keep Aiden (Warnholtz) in check, but just make sure that we were able to battle on the rebounds, and I thought we did a good job of that tonight.”
Now three games away from potentially winning the Gee-Gees first men’s basketball national title, Derouin took the time to reflect on the big win and what it’s going to take to potentially finish the job and claim the ultimate team goal.
“Well, I’m going to let them enjoy the night. Huge accomplishment, what they were able to accomplish tonight. Carleton, with everything, the history that goes into the building, the team, got to enjoy tonight.”
“But, definitely, I will be mentioning in the locker room that a provincial championship is huge for the program and obviously the respect the OUA has, but we leave on Tuesday and to be smart, remain humble and there are three big games to go.”
“Ottawa has been a really good program, but even these opportunities they don’t come very often, and I think I’ve learned that. We had some success early in my career, maybe I took for granted that we would be back, we be back and then the Queen’s and Ryerson’s (TMU Bold) and Carleton being in your same division, there are no guarantees you are going to get back, so we got to make sure these guys understand and take full advantage.”
The flight leaves Tuesday, the games start Friday.