By David Morassutti
What should have been an easy matchup for the Ottawa Gee-Gees turned into an instant thriller an almost upset for the Bishop’s Gaiters. It took overtime, but the Gee-Gees were able to grind their way to a 91-85 victory to move on to the semi-finals of the Canadian Interuniversity Sport.
Ottawa got off to good start leading 19-11 after the first quarter led by Caleb Agada with seven points. Bishop’s had a tough time getting their offence going hitting 31.3 per cent of their shots in the first quarter while Ottawa was shooting at 41.2 per cent.
The Gaiters went on a miraculous comeback with a 20-1 run turning a 25-15 deficit into a 35-28 lead heading into the first half. Bishop’s got a major contribution from its bench with a 16-3 advantage in points from there. The Gaitor’s shooting percentage went up from 31.3 per cent in the first quarter to 46.9 per cent at half while also holding a significant advantage in rebounds with 18 defensive rebounds to Ottawa’s 11.
Ottawa came out strong in the third quarter needing only 68 seconds to take a 36-35 lead. It was a back and forth affair but the Gaiters were able to tough it out in the quarter heading into the fourth quarter with a 51-46 advantage.
In the fourth quarter, Bishop’s made crucial three pointers to take a six point lead late in the fourth quarter. Johnny Berhanemeskel made two straight three pointers to pull the Gee-Gees within three. Mike L’Africain on Ottawa was called for technical foul with two minutes left in the game but Berhanemeskel was able to pull Ottawa within a point with a tough layup. Then with ten seconds left in the game, Caleb Agada converted on two free throws to tie the game and send it to overtime.
When asked about his team’s struggles offensively, Berhanemeskel said that he would not expect his team to play like they did against Bishop’s moving forward. “It was like we had a guardian angel watching over us because at times they deserved the win but we will were able to squeeze out a win and now have to prepare for Saturday,” he said.
When asked if he was worried at any point in the game Berhanemeskel said that the team cannot look at it like that. “You just have to play to the end of game and it is part of our team’s character to come together and make key plays defensively which kept us in that game,” he said.
In overtime Ottawa pulled ahead 84-77 after a couple of errant plays by Bishop’s, who struggled to get points on the board. After the Gaiters pulled within three Ottawa was able to shut them down pulling away with the 91-85 victory.
Bishop’s was great from the three-point range going 9-13 which was good for 69.2 per cent while Ottawa struggled to score from three, going 8-33 which had them shooting 24.2 per cent. The Gaiters outrebounded the Gee-Gees 53-34 in the game, which showed their dominance in the paint where they outscored Ottawa 42-36.
Ottawa coach James Derouin said that by just looking at the game sheet it was hard to tell that Ottawa had done enough to earn the victory. “What can you say, you do everything there to lose the game but we found a way to make big plays,” he said. “We found a way to pick up the pace in the fourth quarter, they played an amazing win and deserved to win.”
One way that Ottawa was able to pull through was by forcing Bishop’s to turn the ball over. The Gaiters turned the ball over 28 times which allowed the Gee-Gees to score 28 points off of.
There was also a time where Deroiun felt like his team was going to turn things. “At some point we were bound to make some shots, we had faith in our guys who got some great looks and in the end we stayed with it and made the shots that got us through in the end,” he said.
Gaiter’s head coach Rod Gilpin said that his team believed they could win. “They were aggressive with their blocking and there were some questionable calls near the end. When Kyle Desmarais fouled out that certainly took away one of our stronger guys and he did a good job with the ball when they pressured him,” Gilpin said.
There was a strong showing from Gaiters fans that made the journey from Sherbrooke, Que. to support their team. Throughout the game it was clear that the Gaiters got a major boost from their fans.
“They had great support on a neutral site which was a surprise but they always travel well,” Derouin said. “This definitely helps us prepare for Saturday though where we expect it to be a hostile environment.”
Ottawa will now play Ryerson in the semi-finals on March 14 at 8:00 p.m. with the winner moving on to the championship game to play either Carleton or Victoria.