By Anthony Lopopolo
It’s mere moments after the men’s basketball team was ousted from the playoffs – and forward Boris Bakovic is kneeling on the court, overwhelmed with emotion.
Bakovic’s father makes his way from the stands to comfort his son. The star basketball player buries his face in his father’s shoulder.
As they pull apart, tears fall down Boris’s cheeks.
“It’s disappointing,” Bakovic said. “But at the end of the day, I do have a lot of things to be thankful for.”
The Rams lost to the York University Lions on Feb. 25 in the first round of the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) playoffs. It was a close game that ended in a score of 71-69.
Bakovic is disappointed the team’s efforts this season did not amount to a ride to the championships.
“With the way we’ve improved, I thought we could do more in the playoffs,” Bakovic said.
“I thought we were the better team against York, but they just made more plays down the stretch.”
Down by two points, Bakovic missed a key free throw that could have brought the Rams within one point of York. Ryerson got another chance when York missed two free throws with six seconds remaining, but guard Afeworki Gebrekerestos didn’t make the buzzer-beater.
“Playoff wise, yes, I think we under-achieved,” Bakovic said.
“I don’t think we went into this season with high hopes, but we could have made the semi-finals.”
Bakovic, the best university player in Canada, recorded a double-double against the Lions with a game-high 25 points and 11 rebounds.
Fourth-year centre Joey Imbrogno also recorded a double-double and three blocks in the playoff loss.
“We competed well, but we never capitalized on our opportunities, which would have put the Lions down for Good,” Imbrogno said.
It was the team’s first home playoff game since 1993, but the Rams failed to snap a lingering winless streak in post-season play, registering their third straight playoff defeat.
“The loss was obviously very disappointing,” said coach Glenn Taylor.
“York was and still is on an upswing and we were in a downswing (losing four of five games heading into the playoffs.) I thought we were capable of making the semi-finals.”
Taylor said he was baffled by the team’s inability to capitalize on their potential against the Lions.
“What haunted us was our shooting percentage and free-throws,” Taylor said. “The things that we were proficient at doing in the regular season were lost in translation.”
This season marked the firs year in which the Rams recorded a winning average above .500 since 2001-2002, finishing with a 12-10 record in the regular-season.
They also added five more wins than last season and have qualified for a playoff berth two years running, purging the hex that had them miss the post-season between 2003 and 2007.
And for that reason, Taylor, who has been with the team for four seasons, is proud of the work done by his players.
“I really think we’ve made some progress over the years,” Taylor said.
“That’s part of the reason why they brought me here because I have a good reputation for rebuilding teams.”
The Rams current roster will be un-changed, he said, with the exception of one or two other acquisitions.
“I’m pretty happy with the players we have on the team right now,” Taylor said.
“I also have verbal commitment from a player in London, Ontario, who could bolster our club. Other than that, it’s going to be the same core of guys.”
Although the defeat has the Rams heading into next year on a sour note, their progress in the past few years could mean there is a championship on the horizon.
“Even though we lost, I’m pretty satisfied with the way we’ve performed,” Imbrogno said.
“We had a young team this year, a lot of rookies. But since everyone is coming back, we should have the chance to compete with every team in the league.”