By Bryan Meler (video by Daniel Rocchi)
- Ryerson Rams win back-to-back OUA championships over the Carleton Ravens
- Ammanuel Diressa wins finals MVP after a 15-point fourth-quarter performance
- Rams win first game against Carleton at Ravens’ Nest since 2000, hand Ravens their first loss of the year
The Ryerson Rams clawed their way back to beat the Carleton Ravens 86-79 in the OUA finals to win their second consecutive Wilson Cup on Saturday night.
After being down by as much as six points in the fourth quarter at Carleton’s Ravens’ Nest, Ammanuel Diressa and Adika Peter-McNeilly put their team on their backs as they rallied themselves towards gold. The former finished with game-MVP honours after scoring 15 of his 24 points in the 4th quarter, while the latter finished with a game-high 29 points.
In a rematch of last year’s final, the Rams were able to persevere and hand the Ravens their first loss of the season, while securing their second OUA championship in program history.
“Our whole goal was to get back to the Final 4, then put ourselves in the best position to win another title,” said Peter-McNeilly, a first-team OUA all-star. “We now have some unfinished business, knowing it’s time to win a national championship.”
The Rams will get ready to play in the U Sports Final 8 in Halifax starting March 9, and should enter the national tournament as the first seed after their result on Saturday night. It would be a well deserved spot for the Rams, after fending off the league MVP in Connor Wood, who had a team-high 25 points; nailing a number of clutch buckets down the stretch in front of his home crowd.
Just like in their semi-final matchup against the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees, the Rams had to fight from behind. Their true character came out after a 3-pointer from Wood put them down 65-59 with just around seven minutes to play in the fourth quarter. The defending champs wouldn’t lose their focus, responding with a 11-1 run to quiet the Ravens’ Nest.
Once they took the lead, the Rams wouldn’t look back with Peter-McNeilly, Diressa and Myles Charvis catching fire; putting up another 16 points between them in the last three-and-a-half minutes to lock up a championship, and ruin the Ravens’ then-perfect 21-0 record.
It was Ryerson’s first win at the Ravens’ Nest since Jan. 22, 2000.
They started the game with a 3-point shootout in the first quarter, gathering all 21 of their points through seven made three-pointers. When the Ravens tried to impose their size through players like Eddie Ekiyor, who finished with 22 points and 12 rebounds, the Rams responded down low with great defence from Adam Voll and Keevon Small who combined for 9 blocks between them.
The Rams’ pesky defence came to life in the fourth quarter, where they stripped the Ravens for four of their 12 steals on the night. They were able to push the ball in transition, and make the Ravens pay for their mistakes. That was especially the case when Peter-McNeilly threw down an emphatic dunk over Ekiyor while also drawing a flagrant foul on the play.
After not having won a single OUA title throughout the program’s first 66 seasons, the Rams have now won back-to-back OUA titles. Their program has been taken to new heights behind head coach Roy Rana, who was able to enjoy his first OUA title as a coach on the sidelines on Saturday night, after missing last year because of a leave of absence.
“In some ways I took equally as much joy to see the group from last year win it, we’re all family here,” said Rana. “To see what PT [head coach Patrick Tatham] did last year was special. It’s obviously special to also be part of it, but it’s always about these young men. What they did today was beautiful.”
UP NEXT: Just like last year, the Rams will immediately shift their focus towards the teams they’ll have to face at the U Sports Final 8 after beating a Ravens team who’ve won the national tournament six straight times. Their first matchup in Halifax will be on March 9, with the time yet to be decided.