OTTAWA - The Carleton Ravens men’s basketball team squeaked by the Ontario Tech Ridgebacks on Friday night, 72-71 in the team's first game back at the Ravens' Nest in 2023. The Ridgebacks frustrated the Ravens all night long with Carleton unable to separate itself offensively.
Ravens head coach Taffe Charles commented on the team's struggles postgame. “Hopefully we learn from these mistakes,” he said. “I thought the biggest thing was the lack of effort tonight, we just got outworked and that’s the reality of the situation.”
It was a back-and-forth first quarter between the Ridgebacks and the Ravens. Connor Vreeken (Kingston, Ont.) started the game off strong with a couple of threes, and the same can be said for Aidan Warnholtz (Ottawa, Ont.) who put up a strong first quarter. MJ Okado (Calgary, Alb.) came off the bench to make a couple of long step-back threes which kept the offence rolling. The Ridgebacks didn’t go away easily though and were fighting with Carleton every step of the way. Stefan Prica was terrific in the first quarter, knocking down 13 points for his team. The score was 27-22 after 1 quarter of play.
Ontario Tech continued to give the Ravens fits as the first half rolled along. Good transition offence from the Ridgebacks kept them hanging around throughout the first half. The Ravens, though, saw some strong production from Wazir Latiff (Vaughan, Ont.) and Grant Shephard (Kelowna, B.C.), each collecting six points in the first half. Latiff commented postgame on his impact in the second quarter. “I’m definitely always glad to do something that helps us,” he said. “Whether it's putting points on the board or keeping points low on their side, whatever it is to contribute to the win, it's all that matters.” Vreeken and Okado also carried their strong play over to the second quarter, registering a combined 22 points at the half. Carleton managed its lead well to take a 44-37 scoreline to the dressing room.
The Ravens once again struggled to separate in the early goings of the second half, with Ontario Tech doing a good job at minimizing damage and keeping the game close. The Ravens, though, relied on the veteran presence of Shepherd and Vreeken to bounce back and make some big shots. Latiff once again came up with some big shots as well to preserve the slim Carleton lead. One that Carleton held on to heading into the fourth quarter.
Leading 60-52 going into the fourth, Carleton still struggled to find its offensive groove, and in fact, went cold in the fourth. The Ravens shot 2 for 18 from the field in the final quarter, allowing the Ridgebacks an opportunity to crawl back into it. Ontrario Tech took a late 66-63 lead, but in the dying stages, both Okado and Warnholtz knocked down some clutch free throws to seal the slim victory for the Ravens. Despite being outscored 19-12 in the fourth quarter, the Ravens held on for the 72-71 victory.
The win is Carleton’s 10th on the season and improves the team's record to 10-2. The Ravens will be back in action Saturday night from the Ravens' Nest taking on the Guelph Gryphons in the second game of the weekend.
Charles commented on the game coming up against Guelph. “They’ll be fresh, we will have worked up some kinks…although we're not as fresh, at least we will have a competitive game under our belt so hopefully we can take advantage of that. At the end of the day, I think we will be better tomorrow.”
The same sentiment could be felt with Latiff after the close win. “Losing would have probably taught us a lesson but the feeling of almost losing it is embarrassing so we're locked in right now. We really want to pick it up and prove to ourselves tomorrow that we are the best team in the country.”
MORE FROM COACH CHARLES:
“There’s a lot of parity in this league. This is 2023 we're a different team, this is it. We’re going to have to slug it out, and figure out a way to get victories. It’s not about the games we lose, it's about when we lose them and the reality is we’ve got to figure out a way to win games when it matters.”
“I think if we made better shots and better decisions then we would’ve wrapped this up earlier in terms of their effort level.”
ON MJ OKADO:
“There’s no question MJ can score. If you watch him, if you just let him go he can score 30 a night easily.”
MORE FROM LATIFF:
“Our guys that are expecting to give us a boost, get us points, a lot of us didn’t do the job. I would say every single person on our team didn't do the job that they were supposed to do. None of us executed that today and it was obvious.”
ON FACING GUELPH:
“Even knowing that they’re rested gives us more of a panic. They’re fresh, were not so now we’ve got to focus ten times harder to beat a team that’s fresh. Because of what almost happened we don't want to get in (a bad) position, hopefully, that gives us the panic and the fear to get a win tomorrow.”