By Daniel Morand
Two teams, one city.
For a dominant team like the Carleton University Ravens — who had not lost a game in their previous 49 starts — the Wilson Cup final and battle of the Ottawa teams was anything but their typical thrashing.
The University of Ottawa Gee-Gee’s served the cross-town rival their first loss since 2012 and crushed any hope Carleton had of defending the OUA title for the third time.
Down by one point with six seconds left in the game, Gee-Gee’s Johnny Berhanmeskel received an inbound pass and had a chance to hit the biggest shot of his Gee-Gee’s career. Berhanmeskel circled around the top of the key and took a fade away jump-shot contested by two Carelton Ravens. The shot fell, the buzzer rang and the court was stormed — the Gee-Gee’s won 78-77.
“(The last play) is honestly a blur right now,” Berhanmeskel said after the game with a gold medal draped around his neck. “I’m getting goosebumps just thinking about it, that was one of the best feelings to be a part of.”
Down by five points at halftime against the Carleton squad, few expected a dramatic finish — let alone a Gee-Gee’s victory. The Ravens made 21 rebounds to the Gee-Gee’s 12 and their defensive play was strong.
But the Gee-Gee’s also had a tight defence. Carleton tried to speed up ball movement to extend their lead, but the Gee-Gee’s were not giving up open looks easily — Carleton’s star player Philip Scrubb was held to five points by halftime.
Despite 20 minutes of play and the chance for coaches to make adjustments at halftime, the Ravens and the Gee-Gee’s traded buckets for most of the third quarter.
The Ravens continued pressing in the fourth quarter and refused to drop their lead. But the Gee-Gee’s triple-headed monster — made up by Johnny Berhanemeskel, Michael L’Africain and Terry Thomas — scored 15 points and six rebounds combined in the final frame.
With a few minutes left on the clock, the Gee-Gee’s tied up the game. The Raven’s Tyson Hinz used the glass to sink a bucket with only eight seconds left in the game. His sixth field goal of the game gave the Ravens a one-point lead.
But it wouldn’t be enough to stop MVP Johnny Berhanemeskel from taking the gold.
“We wanted to get Johnny in isolation so he could get to his left hand and pull up. They switched the ball stream and he still got it up over three people with the fade away,” Gee-Gee’s head coach James Derouin said. “Johnny is an incredible player and he has given us so much to our program. There’s no better guy to hit that shot.”
Both the Ravens and the Gee-Gee’s qualified for the CIS final eight at the Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa. The final eight seeding will be announced Sunday, following championship games in Quebec and the Atlantic.