By Jackson Starr (Photos: Trevor MacMillan)
Halifax, N.S. - It was arguably the best U SPORTS championship finals game of all time at Scotiabank Centre in Halifax. The Carleton Ravens defeated the St. Francis Xavier X-Men 109-104 in double overtime to win the title.
The Ravens struggled out of the gate with the raucous home crowd helping the X-Men get going early. Carleton struggled at asserting itself offensively with the X-Men putting together a strong first-quarter effort. Avan Nava and David Muenkat led the X-Men with six points each in the first, while Elliott Bailey (Horsham, UK) had five for Carleton. The Ravens trailed 27-17 after one.
The Ravens were able to claw back into it in the second, with some strong offence from Wazir Latiff (Vaughn, Ont.). The guard had eight second-quarter points. Bailey picked up yet another five points in the quarter, bringing his total to ten in the first half. The X-Men though shot equally well and maintained a double-digit lead at the half, holding a 48-35 advantage at the break.
The Ravens made major adjustments going into the second half and came out flying in the third. Carleton played some terrific defence in the paint and responded with huge buckets to claw back into it. Bailey once again came up huge for Carleton picking up 11 third-quarter points to lead the Ravens. Carleton outscored the St. FX 23-12 in the third, cutting the deficit to two points, 60-58.
It was a back-and-forth final ten minutes with both teams trading buckets throughout. Neither could separate as the game went down to the wire. Latiff had seven points in the fourth while Aiden Warnholtz (Kanata, Ont.) came alive scoring eight, including a heroic late three-point shot to send the game to overtime. The score was 82-82 going to the extra frame.
In the first overtime session, it was Connor Vreeken (Kingston, Ont.) who stepped up scoring six of Carleton’s 12 points in the five minutes. All of those six points came from beyond the arc with Vreeken knocking down massive threes. Nava tied the game for St.FX with a heroic three-point shot to send the game to double overtime, 94-94.
Warnholtz and Vreeken once again stepped up in the second overtime for Carleton, scoring all but two of the Ravens' points in the five minutes. Warnholtz also set up Vreeken who knocked down a clutch three-point shot to help the Ravens separate in the final minutes. With the X-Men unable to battle back, Carleton held on to take an instant classic, 109-104 in Halifax.
With the win, Carleton has now won 17 of the last 20 national championships and 17 of 60 national championship tournaments. The program also collects its fourth win in a row and third under head coach Taffe Charles.