By Joel Wass
Errol Fraser’s best was not enough to beat the best as the Ryerson men’s basketball team was eliminated from the Ontario University Athletic playoffs last Saturday.
Despite the shooting guard’s game high 19 points the Rams lost 70-57 to the number-one team in the nation and playoff tournament host Carleton University in the OUA East division semi-finals.
“I felt so confident that we were going to knock them off,” said Fraser. “We could have surprised the world, surprised the country, surprised everybody.”
Fraser’s pre-game gusto wasn’t surprising considering he schooled Laurentian University with 34 points on Friday in Ryerson’s 85-67 quarterfinal victory.
Fraser’s confidence carried Ryerson to a 33-30 lead at the end of first-half against the heavily favoured Ravens.
“The coaches drew up the game plan and we were following it extremely well,” said the 6-foot-2 Fraser. “We could have knocked out the number-one team. We matched them punch for punch for the first 28 minutes, but when Vlady (guard Vladimir Matevski) got his fourth personal foul that’s when things fell apart.”
The second-year Matevski scored 18 points on 7 of 13 shot attempts against Laurentian, but managed only five points against Carleton. The Ravens won the OUA East title by defeating York University 77-61 on Sunday and will advance to the Canadian Interuniversity Sports championships.
Fifth-year forward Sasha Ivankovic said the Rams’ inability to exploit mismatches ultimately cost his team a chance at an upset.
“I was being guarded by a guard and I didn’t go against him in the post,” said Ivankovic, who finished his fifth and final season at Ryerson. “I wasn’t scoring any points against him. We just didn’t put them away when we had the chance.”
According to forward Jon Reid, if the Rams had maintained the defensive effort from the first-half in the final 10 minutes, the game would have not been left to chance.
“We played them good for 30 minutes then we just sort of relaxed,” says Reid, who was just named an OUA East second-team all-star over the weekend. “We let them hang around and they made us pay. We were better than them for most of the game and they just came back and stomped all over us.”
The Ravens flocked back into the game thanks largely to the deadly shooting of game MVP Mike Smart. The Napanee, Ont. Native complicated the Rams victory hopes with his 18 points, including two three-pointers in the final five minutes.
Rams rookie Dwayne Sybbliss was frustrated by his team’s lackluster finish, but is confident it will be a different story next year.
“I have no doubt we can handle this team,” said Sybbliss, who contributed 14 minutes in the Carleton contest. “We’re still the underdogs, but that’s OK. It’s a better feeling being the underdog. The tougher the battler, the sweeter the victory.”
Fraser hopes Carleton savours the victory for as long as they can.
“They never gave us any credit,” said Fraser. “Seeing their faces after the game and hearing their comments after the game; I am going to hold that thought for the whole summer while I am working on my game.”
Saturday’s loss capped the OUA careers of Reid and Ivankovic and both wished they could have walked away on a winning note.
“I feel that I’ve accomplished some individual and team goals, but we didn’t make nationals … that was my goal coming in,” said Reid who spent his first three years of OUA eligibility at the University of Toronto.
At the end of the regular season, Ivankovic questioned if he made the right decision returning for a final season with the Rams and on Saturday the OUA’s all-time leading rebounder still seemed split on his decision.
“It wasn’t worth [coming back] in a sense that I was injured and couldn’t give everything,” said Ivankovic. He had an array of injuries including a torn tendon in his shoulder.
“It was a lot of fun. Good group of guys and it was competitive basketball. I never played to my expectations, but there’s no more years to do it now. If you are going to go out, you might as well go out against the number-one team in the country in their own gym.”