By Steve Petrick
After winning last year’s OUA East playoffs members of Ryerson’s men’s basketball team shed tears of joy after upsetting the top-seeded team. This year, tears of sorrow flowed when they lost to an underdog.
The Queen’s Golden Gaels pulled a stunning 73-69 upset of Ryerson, ranked fourth nationally, in the division semi-final at Laurentian University in Sudbury last Thursday.
Queen’s 73 Rams 69
Now the Rams’ hopes of winning a national title rest on their wildcard application.
Although Ryerson was eliminated in the playoffs, they can still earn a trip to the national tournament in Halifax March 17-19 because two spots are reserved for teams that have stellar regular season performances but fall in the playoffs.
Head coach Terry Haggerty, who guided the Rams to a 17-3 regular season and a 24-5 overall record, filed an application to the wildcard committee Monday and will learn on Sunday if his team is Halifax bound.
The loss to Queen’s, an unranked team, was heartbreaking for the Rams who have been ranked in the top 10 all year.
“We’re not happy to be in this position,” Haggerty said. “We’re disappointed with Thursday’s result.”
The Gaels, making their first playoff appearance in nine years, went on to lose to Laurentian in the OUA East finals.
The Rams were crushed after the game. Guard Ben Gorham threw a chair on the ground and threw his towel onto it. Guard Jan-Michael Nation kneeled to the ground and covered his head to hide his tears.
Captain Sasha Ivankovic said his team was thinking too much about playing Laurentian in the final instead of focusing on beating Queen’s.
“I don’t think we were nervous,” he said. “We just expected to win.”
Ryerson had a seven-point lead heading into half-time but it was more because of the Gael’s awful shooting percentage than the Rams’ play.
But that changed at the start of the second half. Ween’s went on an 11-0 run in the first five minutes, taking a 40-38 lead.
The Rams regained the lead with 1:32 remaining when Jan-Michael Nation sunk a lay-up and a foul shot, but Queen’s rebounded quickly.
Queen’s guard Michael Gleeson hit a three-pointer with exactly one minute left, then hit two foul shots with 33.7 seconds on the clock, icing the victory.
“They just kept hitting the big shots,” Rams’ guard Sam Gilbert said.
The Rams will continue their normal practice schedule this week in hopes they will win a wildcard spot.
“If we get a chance at the nationals, it’s like a chance to redeem ourselves,” Gorham said.