By Noah Love
There were two buzzer-beating losses, an injury to a rookie star, a heroic performance from his replacement and a post-game shouting match on the way to the locker rooms.
It sounds like a script for a prime-time television drama. It was actually the most emotional weekend for Ryerson’s men’s basketball team this year.
The Rams lost two heartbreakers on the weekend. In Sudbury on Friday, Laurentian guard Jim Jefferson hit a three-pointer with no time left on the clock to give the host Voyageurs a 70-67 win. The next night York University’s Dean Labayen hit a baseline fall-away jump shot with 1.6 seconds remaining, to give the host Yeomen a 68-67 victory.
The losses put the Rams into a dangerous situation. With nine games remaining on their OUA regular-season schedule, the team in 7-6, half a game ahead of the 7-7 Voyageurs for fourth-place and the final playoff position in the East Division.
With the win, York improved to 10-4, widening the gap on third-place University of Toronto, which is 8-5. The 12-1 Carleton Ravens lead the division.
With a long nine-hour road trip to Quebec universities Laval and Bishop’s this weekend, gaining some ground on the Voyageurs won’t be easy. But head coach Terry Haggerty isn’t sweating over it.
“We had a team meeting last week and the players made a commitment to get certain things done right,” Haggerty said after the loss to York. “As long as our players maintain that commitment we should be fine.”
One thing the Rams won’t have to worry about is the play of freshman guard Tom Cory. The Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., native played brilliantly on Saturday while filling in for regular starter Karlo Villanueva. Villanueva, Ryerson’s rookie standout, missed the game after pulling his groin at Laurentian. He’s expected back this weekend. Cory made up for the loss of the five-foot-three floor general by hitting six of nine three-point shots and registering four assists in 35 minutes.
“We needed to score because we were missing Karlo,” Cory said. “My shot felt good and I’m glad to know I can step up and contribute when the team needs me.”
The York game also wouldn’t have been as close without Sandy Brar. The Rams trailed the Yeomen for most of the first 30 minutes, but Brar evened the score with about seven minutes left when he hit four straight free throws after a Yeoman was given a double-technical foul for unsportsmanlike play.
Brar hit another two free throws in the final minute to give the Rams a one-point lead, moments before Labayen made the dramatic winning shot.
The ending of the game was so intense that emotions spilled over to the dressing room area after the game. As teams walked out of the gym, a shouting match erupted.
“We were talking to each other for most of the game and then they kept talking to me in the hallway,” Brar said. “I wasn’t about to start fighting them there though. I just kept walking.”