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Queens Gaels punch ticket to first U Sports Final 8 title game with win over Gee-Gees

The No. 2 Queens Gaels asserted their dominance, earning a historic berth in the U Sports Final 8 Championship with an 84-77 victory over the Ottawa Gee-Gees.

Michael Kelvin throws down an alley-oop slam over Jacques Melaine-Guemeta to help the Queens Gaels punch their ticket to their first U Sports Final 8 championship with an 84-77 win over the Ottawa Gee-Gees.
Michael Kelvin throws down an alley-oop slam over Jacques Melaine-Guemeta to help the Queens Gaels punch their ticket to their first U Sports Final 8 championship with an 84-77 win over the Ottawa Gee-Gees. - Photo: James Paddle-Grant

In a gripping showdown at The PEPS sports complex in Quebec City, the No. 2 Queens Gaels earned their place in the U Sports men’s national championship game, overcoming the No. 6 Ottawa Gee-Gees with a final score of 84-77.

This win marked the Gaels’ third successful encounter with the Gee-Gees this season, challenging the notion that beating the same team three times straight is an insurmountable feat.

Separated by just two points in their two regular-season games, including an overtime thriller in Kingston, Queens not only clinched the regular-season title but also earned the right to host the conference championship.

The initial quarter saw the Gaels taking an early lead, establishing a 20-15 advantage. However, the Gee-Gees swiftly countered, scoring four consecutive points to narrow the gap to 20-19 as the first-quarter buzzer sounded.

The game unfolded as a series of momentum swings, with the Gee-Gees connecting on three consecutive three-pointers to claim a 30-23 lead, prompting the Gaels to call a timeout with 6:19 remaining in the second quarter.

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Following the timeout, the Gaels mounted a decisive response, embarking on a game-altering 26-5 run. Six-foot-seven forward Cole Syllas showcased his full arsenal, contributing 15 of his 17 first-half points during this surge, leaving Ottawa stunned and the Gaels with a commanding 49-35 lead at halftime.

Having played in five national semi-finals since 2013, the resilient Gee-Gees engineered a 21-9 run in the third quarter to reduce the deficit to 58-56. However, their comeback efforts fell short as the Gaels closed the quarter with a 9-0 run, maintaining a double-digit lead of 67-56 heading into the crucial final stretch.

In the final frame, the lead swelled to 15 points on a jump shot by Luka Syllas. Although Ottawa made a determined push, coming within striking distance with 2:06 to play, they ultimately fell in the semi-finals for the second straight season as Queens secured their historic victory.

Cole Syllas played a pivotal role in the Gaels’ success, registering a massive double-double with 25 points and 18 rebounds. Luka Syllas, returning from a one-game suspension, added 20 points, seven rebounds, three assists, and two steals. Michael Kelvin contributed 13 points, while Cameron Bett and Fofo Adetogun each tallied 11 points.

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Second-team All-Canadian Brock Newton led the charge for Ottawa with 19 points, six rebounds, and four assists, while Dragan Stajic added 15 points, six rebounds, and two assists. Cole Newton showcased his three-point capabilities with 12 points on 4-of-8 shooting from beyond the arc. Khalifa Koulamallah provided a valuable contribution off the bench with 9 points, and Kevin Otoo and Jacques-Melaine Guemeta each tallied 8 points. Justin Ndjock-Tadjore contributed 6 points and grabbed six rebounds in a commendable effort

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Queens secured a 46-34 advantage in the rebounding battle, including 16 offensive rebounds compared to Ottawa’s eight. They capitalized on second-chance opportunities, amassing 15 second-chance points, and showcased their depth with 28 bench points compared to Ottawa’s 21 in the seven-point victory.

The Gaels now look forward to facing the No. 8 seed, hosts of the tournament and the Cinderella story, Laval Rouge et Or. Having achieved remarkable upsets, they defeated the top-seeded Victoria in the quarter-finals and overcame the fourth-seeded Dalhousie in the semi-finals.

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