Written by Carleton Sports Information
Photo by Ben Nelms
VANCOUVER, BC — The champs are here to stay.
In a game that encapsulated an entire season of teamwork and selflessness, the Carleton Ravens men’s basketball team captured its sixth consecutive CIS Final 8 national title in a 101-79 win over the Calgary Dinos on Sunday evening at the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre on the campus of the University of British Columbia.
“I think everyone had some doubt entering this season, but we persevered,” said head coach Rob Smart, whose interim season as bench boss was one of the biggest questions surrounding this group heading into the 2015-16 campaign. “Gavin (Resch) and Guillaume (Payen Boucard) always saw themselves as champions; their attitude and desire really took over in the last few months of the season and I am happy that they are going out as winners.”
In front of a crowd of 4450 spectators, the Ravens got off to a tremendous start in the opening quarter, as fifth-year senior Gavin Resch (Ottawa, ON) buried two three-point shots in the early going, followed by two heroic charges on the defensive end to set the tone for the team. Carleton’s strong shooting paved the way to a 26-14 first quarter start over the Dinos, as the team connected on six 3-pointers in the first ten minutes, including two from first-year forward Tajinder Lall (Cambridge, ON).
Carleton continued to rely on the three in the first half, connecting on a season-high ten triples before the break. Just before the intermission, Ravens fourth-year guard Connor Wood (Guelph, ON) completed a highlight reel finish along with a foul call to extend Carleton’s advantage before the intermission. Local product Cam Smythe (Vancouver, BC) got involved in the aerial assault against the Dinos as well, converting on two three-point shots before the break. Carleton would take a 16-point margin, 48-32, into the locker room, completing a dream first-half start to the championship contest.
The Ravens outshot the Dinos in the first half, hitting 43.2% of their shots from the floor compared to U of C’s 30.3% on field goals. Calgary’s CanWest MVP Thomas Cooper, who had scored 30 points in the national semi-final against Ryerson, came up with a team-high 14 points (5-13 FG) in the opening half to keep the Dinos afloat.
With a comfortable lead heading into the third, Carleton sustained its momentum in the first few minutes of quarter three. Despite facing foul trouble against Calgary, Ravens forward Ryan Ejim (Toronto, ON) erupted for 8 points in a matter of minutes to continue Carleton’s barrage on the Dinos’ basket.
However, Calgary validated its appearance in the national final by winning the quarter, 24-23, to keep the Ravens within reach. As time ran out in the third, Calgary guard Torrez McKoy launched a half-court prayer which made its way through the hoop to give the Dinos some life as the game moved into the fourth and final frame.
With a championship in sight, the Ravens entered the fourth up by fifteen, 71-56. Just as it had done throughout the entire season, the Ravens’ balanced scoring attack carried the team through the championship game. Kaza Kajami-Keane (Ajax, ON) became the fifth Ravens player to reach double-figures in the final. Carleton’s relentless hustle and emphasis on defence would limit the high-octane Dinos offence, but it was a booming attack that propelled the Ravens to victory. In the final minute of the game, Carleton cracked the 100-point barrier in a national final for the first time.
At the sound of the final horn, the ecstatic Ravens players jumped for joy to celebrate the school’s twelfth national title in a emotional celebration that marked the completion of a season that began with plenty of questions, but was answered once again with the delivery of the W.P. McGee Trophy – the CIS Final 8 championship award.
“It was a totally different group than any of our past championship teams,” said coach Rob Smart in the post-game court celebration. “Our assistant coaches did an amazing job working with the players and helping them find ways to contribute – it wouldn’t have been possible without them.”
With so many changes heading into the season, including the graduation of leaders Victor Raso, Thomas Scrubb and Philip Scrubb, Carleton pulled through in the toughest test of all at the CIS Final 8.
“This one is very sweet. We’ve had some bumps and bruises along the way, and it certainly hasn’t been smooth sailing the whole way,” said Ravens guard Gavin Resch, who will graduate from the Ravens as a winner of six straight CIS championships – albeit as a redshirt in his first season. “For that reason, it’s all that more special in the end.”
Resch, the local Ottawa product from St. Matthew Catholic High School, ended his final CIS game with 18 points, 2 rebounds and 2 assists, including six 3-point field goals.
“It’s surreal. It doesn’t feel like its over, it doesn’t feel like I’m done with my career,” reflected Resch. “I am just excited to be here with this group of guys right now.”
Ravens guard Connor Wood, who came up with some of his biggest performances of the season in the playoffs and CIS Final 8, finished with a team-high 22 points, and was aptly named CIS Final 8 MVP.
“I just got the good looks and I tried to knock them down,” said a humble Wood, who averaged 19.3 points per game in three CIS Final 8 contests. “It definitely feels good to win the honour.”
Also capping off an excellent CIS career with the Ravens was Guillaume Payen Boucard (Montreal, QC), who along with teammates Connor Wood and Ryan Ejim, was named to the CIS Final 8 All-Star Team.
Payen Boucard, a fifth-year forward, lit the Dinos up for 12 points (6-14 FG) and pulled down a team-high 10 rebounds, achieving a double-double in the process.
Fourth-year guard Kaza Kajami-Keane achieved a double-double of his own with 15 points (5-13 FG) and 10 assists, one of his top performances of the season. Ryan Ejim would cap off his fantastic CIS Final 8 tournament performance by scoring 12 points (6-7 FG) and adding 6 rebounds.
In the loss, Calgary drops to 0-2 in national title games, with its first loss coming in 1966. CIS First Team All-Canadian Thomas Cooper led the Dinos with 25 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists. David Kapinga, who turned it up late, added 15 points for U of C in the defeat.
Behind a season-high of sixteen three-pointers, the Ravens controlled the game from start to finish, putting on a thunderous shooting display that simply could not be stopped. Carleton finished the game 16 of 36 from behind the arc.
Carleton’s defence was on terminating display in the crowning game of the season, coming up with six blocked shots – Ejim (4) and Boucard (2) – and 10 steals. The Ravens also won the rebounding battle by grabbing 47 boards to Calgary’s 37.
RAVENS PLAYER OF THE GAME:
#10 Connor Wood – Guard – 4th year – Guelph, ON
CIS FINAL 8 AWARDS
CHAMPIONSHIP MVP (Jack Donohue Trophy): Connor Wood, Carleton
R.W. PUGH FAIR PLAY AWARD: Sven Stammberger, Dalhousie
CHAMPIONSHIP ALL-STARS (5):
Adika Peter-McNeilly, Ryerson
Thomas Cooper, Calgary
Connor Wood, Carleton
Ryan Ejim, Carleton
Guillaume Payen Boucard, Carleton
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