By Armen Zargarian
The Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) men’s basketball team fell in a heartbreaker to the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees 73-72 at Montpetit Hall on Saturday afternoon.
The Bold had possession of the basketball with 4.8 seconds left in the game and a made basket would send them to the Ontario University Athletic (OUA) semi-finals. But an upset over the No. 3 team in the country wasn’t meant to be.
“It was either David [Walker] or Simon [Chamberlain],” said head coach David DeAveiro, looking back on the final possession.
Walker already had a OUA career-high 35 on the night, and the Bold knew the Gee-Gees would key in on him.
“We knew Simon would be open in the post,” said DeAveiro. “He had a good shot, unfortunately, it didn’t fall.”
Walker’s last four points had come from two trips to the free throw line and were the reason the Bold had a 72-69 lead with under three minutes to play.
“We wanted to win a national championship, that was the goal,” said Walker. “So, it’s just disappointing.”
Star player Aaron Rhooms fouled out of the game on a charging call with only 59 seconds left. The charge would prove crucial, as Ottawa capitalized with a layup on the other end.
“We played a lot of one-on-one,” said DeAveiro. “They were just sitting in the paint waiting for us.”
TMU had only 12 total assists, tying their season-low.
The Bold started the game strong, with the home side Gee-Gee’s showing more playoff nerves. TMU registered six steals leading to 11 points in the first quarter.
Veteran Jaren Jones stifled opposing guard Guillaume Pépin into a double-dribble which motivated TMU to start building a lead.
A familiar and thunderous transition dunk from Walker gave the Bold a 22-14 edge with under two minutes left in the first quarter.
“I was just trying to do everything I could,” said Walker.
Ignited by his highlight dunk, Walker scored seven straight points to start the second quarter and extended the Bold lead all the way to 15 points.
“Whenever I make a big play I feel like I can get hot right away,” said Walker. “I felt like nobody could stop me.”
But an experienced Ottawa team began to settle in, forcing TMU’s offence to stagnate and converting their three-point attempts.
Cole Newton scored 13 in the first half, including three triples to help the Gee-Gee’s climb back into the game. Newton finished with 22 points on better than 50 per cent shooting.
“I just wish that we did a little bit better job following our game plan,” said DeAveiro. “We allowed them to shoot some three’s we normally wouldn’t let them shoot.”
The Bold managed to shoot 65.5 per cent from the field in the first half but gave up eight three pointers to the Gee-Gee’s.
With 2:04 left in the half, Ottawa had climbed back from a 15 point deficit to tie the game at 38.
Thanks to a hard screen from Liam O’Leary-Orange, point guard Ankit Choudhary found room to hit a buzzer-beating jump shot to keep the game tied at the break.
The second half was a close battle, with neither team building a lead bigger than five points.
But in the final minute of the game, two TMU turnovers led to layups for Ottawa. The second one was credited to Kevin Otoo which ended up being the game winner for Ottawa to steal the win from TMU.
“A young team on the road, it showed,” said DeAveiro. “We struggled to run half court offence down the stretch.”
Despite being eliminated in the OUA quarter-finals for the second straight season, the team won 15 of their 24 games and formed a genuine brotherhood.
“It’s a close knit group who plays for each other,” said DeAveiro. “I enjoyed coming to practice, it was fun watching them grow.”
Although the team is disappointed and heartbroken from being inches away from the next round, DeAveiro looked at the big picture.
“Plenty of learning experiences, we’re going to be right back here in the same situation next season.”
UP NEXT: The Bold head into the offseason only losing three graduating players. They’ll look to pick up where they left off as one of the strongest teams in the province.