A jam-packed weekend culminated in the Carleton Ravens being crowned the best in Canada
This years men’s tournament brought the best eight teams from across the country to vie for the right to hoist the WP McGee Trophy. This was the 32(!) time the event was hosted in Halifax.
The first pitted the defending champions Calgary Dinos up against the Saint Mary’s Huskies. The teams combined to go 39-1 in the regular season, so it was an appetizing beginning to kick off the quarters. SMU got off to a great start, with the Dinos leading scorer Brett Layton in early foul trouble. However, the tides turned in the second half, as the 27-year old erupted to finish with 23 points. The Dinos shot 10-16 in the fourth to pull away with a 94-78 victory.
The juggernaut 13-time national champion and current OUA champion Carleton Ravens easily handled the University of Alberta Golden Bears, winning by 40. The Ravens poured in 17 threes on 51.5% shooting, while holding the Bears to 4-13 from downtown. All Canadian First Team forward Brody Clarke was stymied by the Ravens feisty swarm defense, as he shot 4-13 for only 12 points.
RSEQ champions Concordia Stingers faced off against OUA finalist Ryerson Rams in the third quarterfinal matchup. The Rams are led at the five spot by 7’2 giant Tanor Ngom. Head coach Roy Rana recruited him from Senegal, despite never watching him play before he touched down in Canada. In his second year on the team, he has improved his free throw shooting drastically—up 30 percentage points to 81.3%. His potential is mouth watering and it was especially prevalent when he crammed it on Alex O'Connell of Duke when they played during a preseason exhibition.
The Stingers were easily dispatched 100-60, as the depth of the Rams were too much to handle.
The nightcap had the hometown (and AUS champion) Dalhousie Tigers play the Thunderbirds from UBC. A raucous crowd was on hand to witness a tight battle. Tigers held a slim lead throughout the game, buoyed by third-year Sascha Kappos and his 15 points. A tough shooting night from former Seattle University guard Manroop Clair led to a slim 65-74 defeat for UBC. It set up a tasty matchup for the hometown team vs. Carleton for Saturday.
In a rematch of last years final, Ryerson attempted to avenge their loss to the Dinos. Calgary got a lead early into the first, and it ballooned to as much as 17. However, the fourth quarter called for a key tactical change for the Rams, with a 3-2 zone defense to start. They were able to disrupt the rhythm of Layton, and bull their way back into the game. They ended up slicing the lead to one until, in the final seconds of the fourth, controversy struck. Rams had the ball with four seconds left on the game clock. The ball was inbounded to fifth-year JV Mukama and as he took a dribble, the ref blew the whistle. He was out of bounds, and the Dinos won. The call drew the ire of Rana, as he pleaded with the officials to review the play. However, in U Sports there is no review available, despite it being nationally televised on Sportsnet 360.
It was an unfortunate ending to an otherwise terrific game. After the game, Rana commented on the play, stating that “from our bench, we didn’t see him step out. I didn’t actually see it, but everyone on our bench had the impression that he was in bounds.”
When asked if U Sports should institute a review system, Dinos coach Dan Vanhooren said that “it's a tough game to referee. I think there are questionable calls in every game going both directions. That makes the game difficult. There is a lot of subjectivity to it. These guys are professionals and they do a good job.” He added that he was not ”going to complain about that or say that we need to have some sort of change.”
This same question was asked later in the day to Carleton’s head coach Dave Smart. He took the opposite approach, commenting that he was “100% for video review. If you have video review you take away the calls that are difficult to make.”
Another great crowd was on hand for the second semifinal as Dalhousie looked to advance to the final. While seen as a mismatch on paper, the Tigers came out firing. However, Carleton went with a zone halfway through the first that led to tough shots for Dal late in the shot clock. But, spark plug Kappos hit three straight buckets, along with a couple rebounds and a steal to bring the score even at 26 apiece halfway through the second. Ravens hit their first three at the buzzer to go up by two heading into the break. It was the fourth quarter that was a turning point as the Ravens held Dalhousie to only nine points. Ravens got on a roll at the end of the fourth as they got their largest lead, to win by eleven.
On the consolation side, the UBC Thunderbirds finished off their tournament with consecutive victories over Alberta and SMU, to claim fifth place. It was a fine ending for the ‘birds, in their first national appearance since hosting the tournament in 2016. They return all but one player for next season, as they hope to build upon their success.
Despite the 86-95 defeat, SMU’s Nikita Kasongo was the leading scorer of the tournament (22.7 ppg). He punctuated the team’s victory on Saturday over Concordia with an emphatic windmill dunk off a turnover.
In the afternoon, Ryerson claimed the bronze medal with an impressive victory over Dalhousie, 84-66. Tigers struggled to score in the third quarter going 3-16 in the frame, and that ultimately led to their defeat. This was the Rams fifth straight medal at the tournament. Filip Vujadinovic was the player of game, with 17 points and six rebounds.
In the final, the fans at Scotiabank Centre were treated to a defensive masterclass for 40 minutes. Carleton led from the first basket, and rampaged to a 34 point victory. Suffocating defense led to difficult shots late in the shot clock for the Dinos. They shot 26% for a team low 49 points. Steady lead guard Munis Tutu of the Ravens was all over the court, posting 18 points and four steals. Forward Eddie Ekiyor was named MVP of the tournament. This was the Ravens 14th title in 17 years, a dynasty unlike any Canada has ever seen.
My All-Stars for the tournament are as follows:
PG: Munis Tutu (Carleton)—> 15.6 ppg/ 6.3 rpg/ 4.6 apg
SG: Nikita Kasongo (SMU)—> 22.7 ppg/ 5 rpg/ 2 spg
SF: Filip Vujadinovic (Ryerson)—> 3.6 ppg/ 5 rpg
PF: Eddie Ekiyor (Carleton)—> 17.3 ppg/ 12.6 rpg
C: Brett Layton (Calgary)—> 17 ppg/ 10 rpg
PG: Myles Charvis (Ryerson)—> 14.6 ppg/ 4.3 rpg/ 4.6 apg
SG: Mambi Diawara (Calgary)—> 15.7 ppg/ 7.3 rpg/ 5.6 apg
SG: Mason Bourcier (UBC)—> 16.7 ppg/ 7.3 rpg/ 2 spg
PF: Sascha Kappos (Dalhousie) —> 14 ppg/ 5 rpg
Next years tournament will be held in Ottawa, before coming back to Halifax in 2021 where StFX will play host for the first time since 1968.
Cover Photo: Mitchell Ballachay/The Ubyssey