Ravens, Gee-Gees look to win CIS title at home – Sportsnet.ca

27 Feb 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on Ravens, Gee-Gees look to win CIS title at home – Sportsnet.ca
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Ravens, Gee-Gees look to win CIS title at home

March 7, 2014, 9:59 AM

OTTAWA (CIS) – The Ottawa Gee-Gees and Carleton Ravens both have a golden opportunity to capture a national title in front of their home fans this weekend as they head into the ArcelorMittal Dofasco CIS men’s basketball championship as the top two seeded teams in the field.

The 2014 Final 8, hosted by Carleton University, gets under way Friday at Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa and culminates Sunday at 2 p.m. with the gold-medal final, live on Sportsnet.

Sportsnet also has live coverage of Saturday’s semifinals at 6 and 8 p.m. on Sportsnet 360. All 10 games from the competition – including televised contests – will be webcast live on www.CIS-SIC.tv.

In their quest for the W.P. McGee Trophy, the Gee-Gees (OUA champions) and Ravens (OUA finalists) are joined by the third-seeded Alberta Golden Bears (Canada West champions), No. 4 Victoria Vikes (Canada West finalists), No. 5 McGill Redmen (RSEQ champions), No.

6 Saint Mary’s Huskies (AUS champions), No. 7 McMaster Marauders (OUA bronze medallists) and No. 8 Saskatchewan Huskies (Canada West bronze medallists).

In Friday’s quarter-finals, Alberta will battle Saint Mary’s in the 12:30 p.m. opener, followed by Carleton vs. McMaster at 2:30 p.m. Victoria vs. McGill at 5:30 p.m. and Ottawa vs.

Saskatchewan in the 8 p.m. nightcap.

The Ravens, who enter the competition as reigning three-time champions after claiming their record ninth McGee Trophy overall a year ago, were ranked No. 1 in the country all season, with archrival Ottawa following in second place in each of the last 11 weekly national polls.

However, the Gee-Gees handed Carleton its first loss of the campaign in Saturday’s OUA final, erasing a 10-point deficit in the last three minutes of regulation to prevail 78-77. The upset win earned Ottawa the top seed heading into the CIS tournament for the first time in program history.

Despite the No. 2 status, many still consider Carleton to be the team to beat this weekend. After all, the three times they failed to capture the OUA crown since 2003 (2011, 2007, 2006), the Ravens quickly got back on their feet and won the national banner.

Ottawa makes a strong case as well of course, and after claiming their first-ever CIS medal last winter (bronze), this could be the year the Gee-Gees finally dethrone their neighbours as the top team in the nation’s capital and, more importantly, in the country.

In his fourth campaign at the helm, head coach James Derouin has led his squad to a sparkling 34-2 overall record versus CIS competition, with both losses coming against Carleton in league play (94-73 on Nov. 29 / 82-58 on Jan. 21).

The top-ranked offence in the nation (96.4 points per game), which dropped 101 points on McMaster in the OUA semis (101-68), is paced by conference all-stars Terry Thomas (22.4), a StFX transfer who helped the X-Men to CIS bronze in 2012, and Johnny Berhanemeskel (20.5), who sank the game-winning shot with 0.5 seconds left in the OUA final.

“Our team confidence is very high right now. We’ve been playing very well for the last month or two and we are just looking to keep it going,” says Derouin, whose team is 11-0 since its January loss to Carleton, reaching the 100-point plateau in all but three of those wins. “We’re thrilled to be at home for the nationals again. We had some highs and lows at the tournament last year and we are looking to take those experiences, with the twelve guys on our roster who have been part of nationals, and put out a strong performance.”

Prior to the OUA final, the Ravens were enjoying another signature Carleton season. Led by former CIS players of the year Philip Scrubb (18.6 ppg) and Tyson Hinz (14.6), as well as two-way standout Thomas Scrubb, the defending champs finished second in the country in both points scored (94.2) and against (62.2) in league action. In addition to the two conference wins over Ottawa, their impressive 30-1 overall mark versus CIS opponents includes victories over Final 8-bound Victoria (82-62), Saint Mary’s (90-87) and McMaster (83-72).

“The Final 8 is always extremely competitive and a very difficult championship to win. It’s three games in three days and if you want to win you will need a really high compete level,” says Dave Smart, who has been named CIS coach of the year a record six times and has an all-time head coaching mark of 31-3 in 12 previous appearances at the tournament. “We are totally focused on our first game against McMaster on Friday afternoon. Our preparation is for that game, we’re not looking ahead to Saturday or Sunday.”

Third-ranked Alberta came oh-so-close to adding a fourth McGee Trophy to its collection two years ago in its most recent tournament appearance, falling to Carleton in the championship game. The Golden Bears edged Victoria 82-77 in last Saturday’s Canada West final to improve to 31-3 overall in CIS competition, including an unblemished 7-0 mark against Final 8 foes. In his final university campaign, forward Jordan Baker, who was a key member of the 2012 Bears, earned conference-MVP honours after he led the team in both scoring (17.6) and rebounding (8.2).

“We have a very experienced and senior roster. Joel Friesen, Todd Bergen-Henengouwen, Jordan Baker, Sahr Saffa and Rob Dewar have all played in this tournament before. We have some depth and the ability for a different player to step up on different nights, which will help in a tournament format,” says second-year U of A bench boss Barnaby Craddock, who previously led two other programs to the Final 8, Brandon in 2007 (silver medal) and Fraser Valley in 2012 (fourth).

“Qualifying for the CIS championship is a tough task and a privilege. Many good teams have not had a chance to play in this exciting tournament. We look forward to the tough competition that it will provide.”

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Making their second straight CIS championship appearance, the Canada West finalist Vikes can only do better this time around in the quarter-finals, after being dominated 83-46 by Carleton in last year’s opening round. Victoria can count on the dynamic duo of forward Terrell Evans (18.1) and 6-foot-10 post Chris McLaughlin (14.7) on offence, but defence has been the key to success this year for UVic, which allowed a CIS-low 60.2 points per game in league play. Looking for their first McGee Trophy triumph since 1997, the Vikes could tie the Ravens on Sunday with a ninth CIS title overall.

“We are excited to return to Ottawa this year. We have a solid returning core and we are hoping that our experience last year at the nationals will pay dividends this year,” says head coach Craig Beaucamp, who led the Vikes to their last appearance in the CIS final in 2006, a close-fought 73-67 loss to Carleton in Halifax.

McGill returned to the CIS tourney for the first time since 1979 a year ago and didn’t look out of place, winning two of three contests on its way to a fifth-place finish, including an 80-68 consolation final victory over Victoria, its first-round opponent on Friday. Boasting the third best defence in the country (62.3), the Redmen completely neutralized Bishop’s in Sunday’s RSEQ final en route to an easy 73-47 win. Their young lineup features nine freshmen, three of them starters.

“The inexperience that we were initially concerned about hasn’t been an issue as our kids have proven that they can play in big games. We’re playing our best basketball down the stretch, our kids have proven that we belong here and we’re looking forward to any matchup we face,” says David DeAveiro, in his fourth season patrolling the McGill sidelines after nine years at the helm of the Ottawa Gee-Gees, which included three trips to the national tourney. “Our ability to shoot from all over kind of spaces out the floor for us and gives us more options. We led our conference in three-point shooting, which is good going into a tournament like this.”

Saint Mary’s is back on the national stage for the first time since 2008 under the leadership of second-year head coach Jonah Taussig, a former all-Canadian who helped the Huskies capture their most recent CIS title – and their fourth overall – in 1999. Led by Theon Reefer (18.8) and Boyd Vassell (16.3), the Huskies posted the fourth best offensive record in the country in league play (86.5) and looked very solid at the AUS championship, defeating UPEI by 16 in the semis and StFX 81-72 in the final.

Back on Oct. 5, Saint Mary’s gave Carleton all it could handle in pre-season action and had the lead in the final minute, before dropping a 90-87 decision.

“We’ll look to play an up-tempo game and try to take advantage of our athletes,” Taussig says. “We need to play a focused game for the full 40 minutes especially on the defensive end. We have a mix of seniors and younger guys, and I think all are excited and ready for the big stage.”

McMaster is another team making a return to the Final 8, qualifying for the first time since 2006. Following a crushing 101-68 defeat at the hands of Ottawa in the OUA semis, the Marauders had one more chance to punch their ticket to the CIS tournament and they made the most of it, claiming a thrilling 93-89 overtime victory against OUA West rival Windsor in the conference bronze-medal game. The Hamilton program is still looking for its first McGee Trophy triumph despite playing in five national finals, the last one in 1998.

“Our mindset has to be that we are coming into the tournament to win it and not just win one game. There is no easy path if we are going to win a national championship, because we know we have to play teams like Carleton, Ottawa, and Alberta,” says bench boss Amos Connolly, whose troops are facing the daunting task of stopping Carleton in the opening round. “Our path potentially leads through the top three seeds, but I think our guys are excited about the challenge.”

Thanks to the at-large berth (wildcard) they were awarded on Sunday night, the Saskatchewan Huskies get to return to the venue where they captured the lone CIS banner in program history, in 2010, when they upset then top-seeded Carleton in the semis en route to the title. It has been an up-and-down year for the Saskatoon squad, which ended conference play with a 15-7 record and lost to Alberta for the third time in as many duels this season, before rebounding against Fraser Valley in the Canada West bronze-medal contest. Saskatchewan is one of many high-scoring teams at this week’s tourney (83.5 ppg), thanks in large part to San Diego product Stephon Lamar (19.0).

“We are honoured to be selected to receive the at-large berth. It is a real testament to the overall strength of the Canada West conference this season,” says head coach Barry Rawlyk. “We have a relatively young team with no players ever participating in a Final 8 before, so we are very excited at the prospect of competing against the best teams from across Canada. The strength of our team lies in our versatility, as our scoring has been shared by a number of players over the course of the season. This will be critical to our success in the Final 8.”

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