By Sean Fitz-Gerald
Ryerson basketball fans saw something so strange inside York University’s gym last Thursday, they each had to come back the very next night with a loud and rowdy friend.
What 200 or so Rams fans saw last Thursday night was the Ryerson men’s team edge out the defending OUA East division champion Laurentian Voyageurs 74-66.
The next night, nearly 400 screaming students, parents, staff and faculty watched the fourth place and final-seeded Ryerson men squeak out a 50-44 win against the Carleton Ravens to clinch the OUA East division championship.
With the win, the Rams secured themselves a game against the Western Mustangs this Saturday for the Ontario title and a trip to the national championship tournament in Halifax next weekend. “Hopefully we can sustain this all the way down to Halifax,” Rams guard Dave Petropolous said. “Nobody knows what we can do down (in Halifax).”
The Rams go off to a slow start in both games. Against Laurentian, Ryerson allowed the Voyageurs to go on a 7-0 run right off the opening tip-off.
Led by the rebounding and defensive work of rookie forward Jan-Michael Nation, the Rams were able to stop the bleeding at seven. But it took the team most of the first half to close the gap.
The turning point seemed to come with just over six minutes left in the half. Second-year centre Sasha Ivankovic, who received a cut on his neck when he rebounded the ball earlier, got the ball off the rim and was protecting it from the approaching Laurentian forwards.
Perhaps feeling claustrophobic, Ivankovic stood from his couch and raised an elbow to look like he was going to flatten the Vee’s player. From that point on (Rye was within two points at the time), Ryerson seemed to have the game under control. The Rams went into halftime with a slim 35-34 lead.
The second half was even until team captain Brian Smith and rookie Ben Gorham hit consecutive three-pointers to seal the victory.
The Carleton game was not nearly as dramatic. After the first two minutes of the game went by without a single bucket being scored, the Rams took the lead and never let the Ravens near it until there was two minutes to go in the second half.
The Rams recovered thanks to a couple of Raven miscues (a turnover, a possession lost out of bounds and a few early fouls) and went onto the six-point victory.
Rams co-captain Rob Armstrong said he was glad the Rams didn’t have to play the Ravens in the first round of the tourney.
“The first time we played (Carleton, Jan. 15), we got ripped off by the refs and the second time (Feb. 15) we just played a horrible game,” the fourth-year business administration student said. “I don’t think going into this tournament we wanted to finish third. We thought Carleton was the easier team.”
At 2 p.m. this Saturday, the Rams will play the Mustangs for the Ontario championship. Buses have arranged to leave Ryerson at 10 a.m. Saturday. The bus will cost $5 a student, and you have to buy your tickets ($5 each) starting Wednesday in the RAC.