By Charles Vanegas
The Ryerson men’s basketball season ended Saturday night, after a heartbreaking 74-70 loss to the Ottawa Gee-Gees in the second-round of the OUA playoffs.
“They left it all on the floor, they gave it everything they had, and unfortunately we fell short,” said Rams head coach Roy Rana.
While Ryerson came out strong – leading 33-32 at halftime – they simply couldn’t separate from the Gee-Gees in the second half.
The hotly contested match — which had both teams trading leads throughout — came down to the final minute. Down by three with 23.5 seconds to go, point guard Jahmal Jones drove in for a slick layup to bring the Rams within one.
The Rams needed just two points to force overtime after Ottawa could only make one of two at the free-throw line, but the stingy Gee-Gees defense proved to be too much — forcing power forward Bjorn Michaelsen to commit a travelling violation with 7.6 seconds on the clock.
Johnny Berhanemeskel (11 points) then hit both of his ensuing free throws to seal the Rams’ fate.
“Both teams worked hard, it was just a shame one of us had to lose. Both teams deserved to win, but we just didn’t pull it out at the end,” said shooting guard Jordon Gauthier, who had 12 points and 10 rebounds.
Both teams finished with nearly identical stats in terms of offensive efficiency – both shot just 21.7 per cent from three-point line, while Ottawa and Ryerson had slight advantages at field goal % (41.9 to 40.3) and free throws (78.9% to 77.3%), respectively.
Ottawa’s Gab Gonthier-Dubue led all scorers with 31 points, and was followed by Ryerson’s Aaron Best (20 points, 8 rebounds) and Gee-Gees’ guard Warren Ward (19 points, 9 rebounds). After the game, Ward heaped praise on the Rams, and more specifically Jones.
“You know what, they’re good — that’s what they did [to stay in this game,]” said Ward. “They’re a very good basketball team and they deserve a lot of credit. They’re well coached, and they have a tremendous player in Jahmal Jones — that guy is going to be a terrific basketball player.”
On his 22nd birthday, Jones played one of his best games in a Ryerson uniform — finishing with 19 points and 5 assists while playing in all but two minutes of the game. And he did it while injured.
“He just battled and battled right ‘til the end. He had a twisted ankle against York, and he never complained,” said Rana. “So [I have] nothing but pride for Jahmal.”
The loss puts Ryerson in an awkward predicament. One year after upsetting the Lakehead Thunderwolves in the OUA Final Four, the Rams will be absent at this year’s Wilson Cup — which is being hosted at the Mattamy Athletic Centre on Mar. 1-2.
“We played hard for 40 minutes,” said Best. “But obviously there’s a bitter taste in our mouths. We just have to work harder and get ready for next year.”